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Paschimbanga Or Whatever – Name Change Is Not A Main Concern

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By Shashank Sinha:

The Mamata Banerjee Government has decided to rename West Bengal as ‘PaschimBanga’, which is ‘West Bengal’ in Bengali. The decision was taken at an all-party meet, presided by the Chief Minister herself. The main reason given behind the change in nomenclature was that ‘W’ of West Bengal came way down the alphabetical order, which prevented the state from accruing various administrative advantages.

Though coming to such a retrograde name which is nothing but a Bengali translation of the current name — one that’s unpronounceable to many — has drawn flak, the whole affair seems more like a political stunt than any real step towards acquiring administrative gains. If the alphabetical position of ‘W’ was the main concern, it would have made more sense to change the name to ‘Bengal’ or ‘Banga’.

Whatever the case might be, name change is not a priority. With that said, even if it has been changed, the reason offered for the same is quite impractical and not fully defensible.

The name West Bengal had come up after the partition of the country in 1947, with East Bengal going to Pakistan. However, as a consequence of the 1971 war, East Bengal got freedom and was renamed Bangladesh. So, the state government’s predilection towards ‘West’ even now, seems farcical to say the least.

As a matter of fact, the change of name has been a trend in recent years. Bombay was renamed Mumbai, Madras was renamed Chennai and Calcutta as Kolkata. This has generally resulted in popular support for the ruling government, with many seeing it as a crucial step towards overcoming the vestigial remains of our colonial past. Similarly in the present scenario, this move is expected to bring political mileage to Mamata Banerjee, reaffirming her place as the number one populist leader in the state.

However, once the euphoria settles down, citizens will realize that they are still plagued by the same old problems and issues. The sagging infrastructure, the poor law and order situation, the overburdened and antiquated sewage system and the myriad other problems which have besieged them now, would still be there.

The Bengalis have a rich cultural and political heritage. They had played a very significant role in India’s independence struggle. Netaji Shubhas Chandra Bose had led the armed struggle against the British and thus inspired the whole nation. Besides, great writers like Rabindra Nath Tagore and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya belong to this ethnic group. So, while adopting a Bengali name does remind us of their glorious efforts, the reasons given for the change don’t sound too convincing.

Renaming the state PaschimBanga would bring it above Tamil Nadu, UP, Rajasthan and Punjab in the states’ alphabetical list. However instead of this rank-mongering, it would be much better if the state concentrates on improving its law and order and other similar malaise, which depend upon strong governance rather than any special central intervention. Tamil Nadu, despite being equally low in the alphabetical table, is one of the most prosperous state in India. So what is really required in West Bengal is some good administration, similar to what has been seen in Bihar in recent years, and not theatrics with the sole intention to excite crowds.

Finally, it would have been much better had the government not used the pretext of alphabetical issues, and stated that change was done to make the people of the region feel more connected. That could well have aroused more awakening among the denizens, and made them more conscious towards their duties for the state. Mamata Banerjee has in general shown an inclination towards promoting indigenous products. So this was an ideal platform for her to announce some of her policies regarding her state, and benefitting the local population, thereby fulfilling her obligation towards those who voted her into power by such a large majority. Alas, none of this happened.

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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.

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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.

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Read more about the campaign here.

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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.

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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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