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Alternate Paradigm for Development: A talk by Adv Prashant Bhushan

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By Mahalakshmi.G:

Parisar, a Pune based civil society organisation working on sustainable development issues had organised their Annual Lecture and Adv. Prashant Bhushan was called upon to address the audience on Alternate Paradigm for Development. He first spoke about the existing development paradigm which was formulated in the 80’s and 90’s under the banner of LPG and the Structural Adjustment paradigm adopted with claims that this “foolproof” model will usher in a new era of development and growth with a never seen before rise in the GDP growth rate, a single measure to depict growth in a country. In this bargain the “actual” well-being and Human Development Index was ignored, basic necessities became dearer and the term Liberalisation was used proudly as a term for something good, while under the garb, exploitation of natural resources, the poor becoming poorer, widening social gap was pushed under the carpet. Only the glossy exterior of “India Shining” was to be portrayed and what happened to the millions of people was not the concern of policy makers.The situation stands now where India has one of the lowest HDI indices and trails behind Bangladesh and other Asian neighbours too. He quoted examples of how access to food has now become a greater social and economic problem, of the 200,000 farmers who committed suicides and the scale of destitution which is unprecedented.

He also explained how the Government policies and the “opening up”, for example, in the mining sector has led to a tilting of balance in nature and lives of people affected. He takes the case of Orissa which has trillion dollars worth bauxite reserves and with the Govt having given 100pc FDI now to mining, many private players will take it away for export and leave no reserves in the coming 20 years, but the Govt would be happy as this export would increase the GDP growth rate in the country. Interestingly Dr Manmohan Singh’s PhD thesis at that time talks about how India trailed behind due to lower exports of minerals and this is exactly what he sought to do as the then Finance Minister and the current Prime Minister.

The mining sector has led to exploitation of natural resources as to get through to the minerals, forests have to be cut. It has also led to involuntary displacement of the indigenous tribal populations living there for many generations together. Their lives and livelihoods depend wholly on these very forests and they share a very deep connect with them. Very often we see either people moving away from their lands or fighting to save what they have. This injustice also drives many to join the Maoists and this creates a bigger monster of a problem. Mafias are created, corruption is highlighted, hardly do the people affected get jobs and alternative livelihoods. Liberalisation has led to easy transfer of assets from public to private and this is being manifested through-minerals, spectrum sale, transfer of land and SEZ’s and the private owners can cash in almost 90pc profits due to this mode of transfer.

He also reiterated how these private establishments’ with their ever powerful lobbies affect and influence decisions at the highest echelons of power and the country’s direction of growth is in their hands now. This model neglects everything and even though the PM says this will lead to a trickle-down effect, this is not happening.

The alternative says, for setting things straight and having actual growth is democratic way of participation, wherein all the people are consulted. He enumerates some pointers below:

  1. All the policies will be made taking into account the stakeholders and having a referendum, this could happen at the village Gram Panchayat level, city, state or national level. Kiosks can be set up at every village and area for time to time voting on various issues.
  2. Independent bodies to assess costs for fair conduct of referendums, deciding the issues to be discussed.
  3. Policy outcome to be environmentally and ecologically sustainable, has to be equitable.
  4. Policies must be labour intensive and not capital intensive
  5. Should be a transparent process

He also similarly outlined the procedure for food and health policies, housing and energy.

He concluded by saying that active participation of people at all levels is very necessary for the above outlined process to work and sustain and said that he is confident that people will be forthcoming in accepting the democratic way of life and build a corruption free country.

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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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