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20 Things Independent India Ought To Do Before 2020

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By Avnish Gaurav:

It’s been about 23,725 days since we got our independence. But the very essence of freedom is yet to reach a major chunk of our population. The ground realities often get eclipsed by mathematical numbers like high GDP, second highest rate of economic growth in the world and titles like ‘Most vibrant democracy’. Instead of bragging about whatever little we have achieved so far here is a look at few basic things we ought to do to make India an actually livable place for all.

  1. Sight For All: India has about one-fourth of the world’s blind or visually handicapped.80% of the total blindness in India is curable. Indian doctors serve in other countries. What is required is a will to solve this issue.
  2. Slum Management: In 2002 India had close to 51,668 slums with a population of about 41 million. On an average this population doubles over a period of 20 years. Most of the slums except for some in Madhya Pradesh lack basic amenities like drinking water, electricity and sanitation. A well integrated development plan can change the face of our slums.
  3. Agricultural Agony: Agriculture is the only industry where producers cannot decide the rate of their product. This itself explains the state of agriculture in India. Thousands of tonnes of grain rot every year. Foreign imports are highly subsidized which hampers local market. These are artificially generated problems. If the farmer’s hand slacken even the ascetic’s state will fail. – Thirukkural.
  4. Defence Dilemma: People in power are of the opinion that India can shield itself from foreign attacks by importing arms. It is estimated that in the next 15 years India which is already the largest importer of arms and ammunitions will import defence equipments worth 149 billion dollars. We need to shift the focus from import to indigenous development.
    “At the frontier there are no borders.”-A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
  5. Communal Clashes: This is an issue of immense concern. A nation that has in past accepted races from across the world with open heart is slowly becoming intolerant.Communal clashes have become rampant and the administration does not learn from its previous mistakes.
  6. Physical Infrastructure: Quality roads,uninterrupted electricity, clean drinking water are the foundation on which the building called development is built. India adds about 11 KMs of highway everyday.Power situation still remains a concern with most of the villages spending night in the dark.
  7. Healthy India: Health for all also includes better sanitary conditions in workplace viz. factories, coal mines, quarries etc.. 42% of India’s children below the age of three are malnourished. 1.72 million children die each year even before turning two. By 2020 Indian healthcare is poised to become a US$280 billion INDUSTRY. This should be reflected even in remote villages.
  8. Blot of Untouchability: Millions of people are still tortured,segregated from mainstream just because their caste is deemed as impure, less than human. Every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched.Having the tag of “Developed” nation is a distant dream unless we eradicate such evils.
  9. Education: Overall literacy stand at around 74%. However the distribution is quite uneven. There has been a sharp rise in female literacy but in states like Bihar ~50% of females in rural areas are still illiterate. This gap needs to be bridged.
  10. Strong Foreign Policy: Off late there has been talks about India toeing the lines of West when it comes to taking internationals decisions (In case of sanctions on Iran, Syria). Foreign policy decisions were the strongest around 2000-2001 wherein even the superpowers were made to bow to India’s stance.
  11. Space Research: This is one area we can be proud of. We are now in the elite league of few nations capable of deploying and building satellites on its own. However we need to leverage our capability to solve healthcare,agricultural and defence related problems. Beyond a certain point no country offers technical know-how in this sector. We need to focus on indigenous skill build up and keep nurturing fresh talents. As an example during human space flight temperature can go as high as 1000 deg Celsius and as low as -300 deg Celsius. We should focus on such issue since our next big mission is a manned space flight.
  12. Sanitation and Drinking Water: More than 122 million households have no toilets. Over 50% of the population (638 million) defecates in the open. This is relatively higher than Bangladesh and Brazil (7%) and China (4%). Only 26% of the slum population has access to safe drinking water. Overall percentage however is satisfactory(~90%).
  13. Railways: Yet another national asset we can boast of. But there are areas to be worked on. Frequent accidents(11 so far in 2012), poor passenger facilities, lack of hygiene on trains,perennial unavailability of tickets. Railways ministers put their personal concerns above that of nation which is another concern.
  14. Indigenous Opportunities: Employment in India especially in service sector is dependant to a great extent on outsourced jobs.Apart from this we depend on other nations for high end technology, advance scientific research, defence requirements, energy sources, even higher educations. We need to reduce this dependency.
  15. Nuclear Programs: A country like India with an alarmingly population cannot be energy sufficient without going the nuclear way.Renewable sources of energy being expensive to harness and non-renewable ones depleting at a rapid rate, this is the only way out. We need to develop methods to enrich the fuel available in India.Also we have to go a long way in using this program for medication purpose.
  16. Human Resource Development: Any transition calls for an integrated solution wherein teams have to work in sync with each other for attain a defined goal. This requires people to people interaction in different ways and manners. For this massive investment in human capital is required. Unfortunately India out of 175 countries surveyed India stands at 134th position below countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka. Way to go for us.
  17. Focus on Strategic Industries: Security today means much more than just protecting the border. A country needs to ensure Food Security, Economic security, Technological security apart form direct defence requirements. We need to develop the relevant know-how and industries to be self-reliant in these sectors.
  18. Sports: Apart from cricket which is more of a religion than a sports there is hardly any sports popular in India.In 116 years ever since Olympics started we have won just 26 medals. Needless to mention anything else.
  19. Transparency in Govt.: Opacity in the functioning of executive is the biggest road block in attaining any national goal. e-governance needs to be implemented. We should have a better laid out code of conduct for parliamentarians. Benefits of RTI should reach the masses.
  20. The Passion of One Nation: There is common feeling that transcends all sections of society that to serve the nation one needs to join the army and stand on the border. We should realize that discharging our individual responsibility with accountability and professionalism is also a service to our nation. Nations like Israel, Japan and South Korea have done wonders sticking to this formulae.

Strength respects strength – A.P.J Abdul Kalam.

Hope we are a developed INDIA this very day in 2020.Wish you all a satisfying Independence Day.

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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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