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Recapping Democracy 2010: All We Need Is Introspection

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By Shray Mishra:

A recent report by the Amnesty International says that nearly four million people are currently living under the Taliban in north-west Pakistan without rule of law and are effectively abandoned by the Pakistani government. In the report titled, As if Hell fell on me, the Human Rights crisis in Pakistan’ the London based rights organization asked the Pakistani govt. and Taliban to comply with International Humanitarian Law. Tanseem Noorani, a former interior secretary of Rawalpindi says, “From a safe and lovely town, it has been turned into a bunker.” A senior I.P.S Officer says that during his visit to several important countries last year, the general assessment about Pakistan everywhere was expressed just in two words- a “FAILED STATE.”

In India some hardliners with a myopic vision should be wallowing over it while back home it is not a different story either. In a village in Punjab kids are having neurological problems as there is uranium in the water due to the pollution by a nearby plant. Over 25 years after the world’s worst Industrial Disaster in Bhopal, which left 15,000 dead and injured 5.7 lac people, seven get two years in jail as the Apex court diluted the charges from culpable homicide not amounting to murder, to that of rash and negligent act.

The sense of anger and outrage was felt across the world as the international media and prominent American senators condemned the verdict and the fact that the alleged “Butcher of Bhopal”, the then chairman of Union Carbide corporation, Warren Anderson‘s name did not even appear in the list of the convicted. On the contrary, Anderson was granted safe passage by the Indian govt.

A nation that cannot uphold its law, can’t maintain order either. When Anderson was virtually escorted out of India, the State abdicated its responsibility. Anderson sneered at the establishment that knelt before him.

The gross mismatch between the quantum of punishment and the havoc caused has outraged the survivors who see it as a travesty of justice. Most of the survivors and their family still suffer from MBC related disease. Worse, an NGO alleges that these victims were used as guinea pigs. Hospitals conducted trials without patients’ knowledge, causing many deaths. Muslim Intellectual of the stature of MJ Akbar incisively sums up: “Justice for Bhopal is a serious issue. We treat poors as dispensable chattels whose death is meaningless in the economic calculus since there is no shortage of supply. Bhopal is a class war. If thousands of politicians, or their cousins, the nouveau rich, had died on that apocalyptic night in Bhopal, Anderson would still be in Indian jail rather than in America under protection.”

And nothing much different in Dante —Wada (Chhattisgarh) where 76 CRF jawaans are killed in one go by the Naxals/Maoists. A few days later a bus is blown up by them near Dante-Wada killing 40 people on the spot. A shaken Home Minister bemoans, “I have a limited mandate.” He wants army’s help. But at the highest level the army expresses strong disinclination to intervene. And a supine Prime Minister acquiesces. The ball is thrown back in the court of the states saying law and order is a state subject. The matter thus comes back to square one. Whatever may be, in a democracy perception becomes the operative truth. The operative truth here is, “The govt. just gives away people’s lives to naxals/Maoists. What’s the point in having this huge army if it can’t even protect people against a group of brutal fanatics?”

Comes next, the ‘Death at Dawn’ the Mangalore air crash. All the 158 occupants on board were killed. The civil aviation minister offers to resign as a matter of routine and the Prime Minister refuses to accept it ‘as a matter of routine’, or should I say Air Mishaps are a matter of routine now.

Follows closely on the heels the Jhargam train disaster in West Bengal killing hundreds of passengers and injuring and maiming many. A C.B.I. inquiry puts a cap on the matter.

In Pakistan four million people may be under the Taliban’s, in our country out of 640 districts, 120 districts are officially stated to be Naxals dominated where over large areas there writ runs. Thus we have far many million people who are living at the mercy of these insurgents.

M.J Akbar further says, “The divine right of kings is dead, it has been reborn as the secular right of an elected parliament”. In our nation the Prime Minister sits in Lok Sabha without voting rights for the seventh year running. He even complains about empty chairs at cabinet meetings. This is not because his ministers are more usefully busy elsewhere. They simply do not care. Would they have been absent from a Sonia Gandhi Cabinet meeting? Indian Politics reduced to notional ideology and devoid of accountability is suited to coalitions. If there were accountability, the D.M.K’s A. Raja would not remain in Man Mohan’s cabinet. The D.M.K’s other minister Alagiri remained missing during the budget session of parliament, government having no clue about him. Later it was transpired that he was sojourning abroad. But he still remains in the cabinet.

This is also due to an erosion of the P M’s authority. Major decisions are no longer in the domain of the PMO. They are taken by the UPA chairperson—cum-head of the national advisory council. The PMO remains a notifying agency. A captive PM then adopts a please-all-offend none policy. Compromise is a virtue in interpersonal relations. If it becomes the guiding principle of governance it may lead to disaster. The world renowned weekly ‘The Economist’s’ cannot thus be faulted when it writes, “Manmohan is the prime minister. He has no power.” Even while making its choice of Congress just before the 2009 general elections referred to him as a night watchman at the batting crease.

The Prime Minister has shown a penchant for giving extensions to bureaucrats without caring for the demoralization it causes down the line. Just after taking over as PM in May, 2004 he replaced then cabinet secretary Kamal Pandey with B.K Chaturvedi who had nearly sixty days to retire. He was given several extensions. M .K. Narayanan, NSA was given repeated extensions, and present cabinet secretary is also on two years extension. It appears that the Prime Minister has a propensity for pliable officers to form his think-tank. This is in sharp contrast to the mother-in-law of his mentor who let retire six secretaries to the government of India on the same date including L.P. Singh and L.K Jha who were her brain trusts. She did not give extensions to anyone and thus kept the bureaucratic slate neat, clean and non-controversial.

At the end of the day, one must be fair to Manmohan Singh ji .He has raised to such heights from the grass roots through sheer dint of merit. After Europe’s capitalist revolution, Napoleon came along. To institutionalize socialism in Russia, Lenin Appeared. In India to institutionalize liberalization, Manmohan appeared. His shining hour came in Narsimha Rao’s Cabinet when he introduced bold economic reforms. But this Oxford Blue reached his ceiling then too. Thus far and no far, repeat no far please. The top job is not a badge of honour but a negotiable instrument to balance the arithmetic of politics in the quest for power. The erudite professor is not cut out for that.

To conclude, a nominated prime minister ruling through a coterie of overage bureaucrats thus blocking the pipeline for emergence of fresh ideas and better strategies, health care and civic facilities in shambles, environmental degradation, failure to even detoxify the gas disaster site posing a threat to those living in the vicinity, rising crime rates, criminal justice system on the verge of collapse, corruption ruling the roost, govt. raising hands in the face of left-wing insurgency, politician-bureaucrat-criminal nexus running a parallel economy, people’s anger high on the Richter Scale as cost of living is getting exorbitant by the day, what is the ‘delivery-quotient’ of the Indian State?

A little self Introspection should provide an answer. Forget Pakistan and Taliban.

You must be to comment.
  1. Lets clean India

    Yes really, as corruption has grown at exponential rate in recent years.Scams are becoming a common thing nowadays and these idiot people are not ashamed of it..

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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