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The Government”s Latest Attempt to Address Disinvestment & Fiscal Deficit Targets

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By Pradyut Hande:

Reeling under the adverse ramifications of internal and external pressures, the UPA — II Government continues to grapple with myriad issues and challenges that only appear to become more daunting with each passing day. With rising inflation, inconveniently high food prices, stuttering economic expansion and other financial woes amongst other critical issues already to contend with; the Government appears to have more on its plate than it can judiciously handle. Add to that mix; a slew of corruption scandals, an eroding public image and a general lack of goodwill; and the Centre appears to be on the precipice. The pressing need for proactive policy formulation and implementation backed by positive leadership is the need of the hour. Set in this tumultuous backdrop, in order to meet its fiscal deficit targets, the Government has announced that it would be adopting a marginally departed approach to pursue its disinvestment goals. (Disinvestment – The action of an organization or a Government when it indulges in the selling or liquidation of an asset or subsidiary. Also known as “divestiture”. Source:

Disinvestment has always been an “elusive target” as successive Governments have struggled to formulate a balanced strategy mix to accomplish the same over a protracted period of time. However, with the Government admitting that achieving the fiscal deficit objective of 4.6% of the GDP for the year ending March, 2012; would be a tough proposition; disinvestment assumes even greater significance. As crude oil prices continue to hover at astronomic levels, the Government’s endeavour to achieve its fiscal deficit targets becomes even harder. Target projections by the Centre in recent months have gone woefully awry, as the economy continues to feel the “ripple effects” of the global economic slowdown and fluctuating commodity prices. While projections may have gone haywire owing to market vagaries and extraneous caprice, the Government cannot deny the fact that it has displayed a veritable degree of laxity as far as meeting its disinvestment targets this year is concerned. Having only managed to raise Rs. 1,145 crores from disinvestment, out of an eventual target of Rs. 40,000 crores; the Government has finally decided to up the ante and adopt a different tack in their attempt to get closer to their initial targets. It is considering open auctions of small portions of its stake it holds in Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), instead of going in for shares sales through public offers.

On the face of it, the Government’s newly drawn up strategy appears good on paper. However, it runs into a major stumbling block as it goes against the laid down stipulations in the Disinvestment Policy to begin with. The Policy does not allow for such a method to be undertaken. Hence, in order to circumvent the hindrance posed by the limitations of the present Disinvestment Policy, the Finance Ministry would have to obtain approval from the Cabinet before going ahead with its ambitious plans. This also underscores the need to incorporate changes to the current Policy to account for a market in flux and radical policy implementation strategies. However, obtaining the Cabinet’s approval before actually putting its plans in place promises to waste precious time…time that the Government cannot afford if it is to gainfully work towards achieving its deficit targets.

A failure to effectively meet fiscal deficit targets is guaranteed to have certain adverse effects on the economic spectrum per se. The Government had recently announced that it would borrow Rs. 52,800 crores more than its budgeted projections in the second half of this fiscal year. It vehemently promised that the excess borrowing would not adversely impact the fiscal deficit. However, not meeting its deficit goal may actually entail the Government exceeding the revised budgetary borrowing. Analysts have pegged the fiscal deficit to end up at about 5.3% of the GDP and believe that if the Government significantly overshoots its borrowing in the latter half of the fiscal year, it would have a negative impact on the fluctuating bond market. Apart from a plausible shortfall in achieving its disinvestment targets; lower tax revenue collections and higher fuel subsidies also promise to collectively increase the fiscal deficit levels by the end of the fiscal year. The “fiscally challenged” Government certainly has its work cut out and ought now to channel its efforts and resources effectively in order to improve economic performance in the remainder of the fiscal year.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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