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Mafia-police-politician trio stalls sane progress of civilization

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Abhirup Bhunia:

In the course of life, we might have been hoodwinked by a swindler; we could have also possibly seen our things being stolen by the tame thief. Or, going further, we might have even been closely or distantly related to a murder offense as a non-doer, maybe by virtue of having being the witness, kin of victim or the murderer, friend of alleged killer etc. However, these have somehow been slotted in our daily lives — not by will but by force — since they are so omnipresent. But blatant and unrestricted felonies of the bloody kind roaming free on the streets sure give us the creep and disturb us from within. Even the thought that an armed bandit with either silent political backing or the lack of it coupled with the fear among the politicians to go for them, makes us quiver forcing us to be reticent either feigning ignorance or being bogged down by influential corners despite having youthful — sometimes naïve — vigor to resist such barefaced criminalization of a civilized society. Yes, we are talking of mafias, dons and the likes — few would put up a smugly attitude and chuckle at the apparent might of the sinister world of mafias as we go about it.

The underworld is a shade similar to the gangland that these criminals add up to. The term mafia actually denotes anything that occurs under the table and opaquely under the influence of the high-ranking corrupt officials. It is open secret that several of our politicians are party to this menace. While a few have even played the leading role themselves others endorse it silently or give that preferred outside support. Needless to say, money is behind all of it unless some longstanding enmity of the bloodthirsty kind exists between two men. The nexus between the contractor mafias, police and politicians in the public construction sleazes are worth having a good look at. The contractor mafias have featured so much in the public constructions that little suspicions are left in ones mind.

With any luck, we are sure to recall Satyendra Dubey, who was the whistleblower in the NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) construction case. Innate involvement of the mafias in it had prompted him to write to the PM but when the powers themselves are influentially privy to these incidents and the crime bureau’s allegiance to the impious government acts as the windfall for the crooks there is little that the layman can do apart from sigh and censure. The Mafioso gets away lightly due to their forged alliance with the law enforcement (police). Recently a mafia of a different kind — the drug mafia — was reportedly involved with the police, something which was exposed by the responsible media, making it difficult for the Goa based gang to do business for sometime (although its just a mater of time till they resurface). In 2007, the UP state police report listed 280 mafia gangs operating of which more than 30 were criminal mafias while land and contractor mafias were more in numbers. Mulayam Singh unleashed a police crackdown just ahead of the then elections prodding justified opinions that no real motive existed in him and it was mere vote garnering tactic. The Bihar street mafia had allegedly lent out sophisticated weaponry — as technologically advanced as the AK-47’s — to the Uttar Pradesh criminal fête to earn money a few years ago. The sordid black bazaar has roved its own web of dirty business of arms and guns which runs with all its might due to the safeguard provided by none other than the state run police departments obviously working under the overwhelming control of the highly dishonest and money-affectionate politicians who keep the mafia alive for once-in-a-while use of muscle power against the opponents or the rare citizens who threaten the serene running of the encrusted and clandestine criminal activities. These people, who blow the lid of the scam, are evidently the right men with their moral fiber intact who are petrified at the unchallenged corruption. It is, in any case, least expected that the people will shout from the rooftops, their consternation and repugnance against the perpetrators of such vices.

In terms of popular culture, there have been several Hindi movies which were anchored in mafias and such goon-gangs. These are to be seen as attempts by brave directors at bringing to the people the reality of a rampantly corrupt India that has got nothing to do with what meets the eye. It is also acknowledged that the mafia raj that existed in India only sometime ago and has the potential to stage a dramatic comeback unless the hooks are tightened and the police crack down heavily on the mafia.

The RTI is sure to curb possibilities of activities by the contractor mafia any further. If rigorous stand is taken by the CBI, the horrid nexus between politicians, mafia and police will be busted as well. In that case we will be less likely to see MLA’s dancing with girls in bars frequented by mafia dons and underworld victors, we will be less prone to getting news of police engaged in scandalous doings of the criminals, we will be less likely to watch video grabs of policemen making merry with the underworld goons, and lastly, India will more probably be freeing itself of the embarrassing position of 84th in the corruption scale rankings.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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