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Have You Ever Read In Between The Lines Of Caste-Based Politics?

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By Gitanjali:

There’s a hue and cry when crucial bills like FDI in multi-brand retail or the Lokpal Bill need to be discussed. Politicians argue, fight and slam the government and their supporters for ruining this country by allowing FDI in growing sectors like multi-brand retail. They fear the Lokpal Bill because of the transparency and accountability that it will bring and try to keep the Bill frozen. But all the parties (except one in this case and that too for its own electoral reasons) came together to support the Bill that stands to provide reservation quotas for the backward castes in promotions. The polling in Rajya Sabha showed a whooping majority of 206 voting for it and just a minuscule 10 members voting against it. Consider this against the 102 who voted against FDI in multi-brand retail and the 123 who voted for it.

Our political parties will probably be never done and over with caste-based politics. Despite 65 years of independence, our law makers are interested not in issues that concern the economy and welfare of the nation as a whole, but in ensuring that their seats of power remain in their family, they ensure this by assuring that the backward in the society always remain backward. It is said that, “give bread to a man every day and he’ll never learn, but teach him to make bread and he’ll learn to earn a living.” By providing reservation over reservation and other sops, the government and all political parties are trying to ensure that the backward classes of society do not improve in skills and knowledge but always remain ignorant and blissfully helpless.

It is a pity that despite the efforts of all the governments from 1952 onward, the backward sections of our society have still remained backward and are not merged with the general fabric; the vision of the makers of the constitution has gone unfulfilled and not understood clearly. But the case is not so entirely; many from the backward communities have benefited from the reservations provided during the early years of formation of our country and are today economically and financially well-off. Their children today have good education and all facilities as well as any other person.

The only thing that probably still keeps them divided from the main society today is the caste-based reservation. Because of the existence of such quota in admissions and jobs, people tend to discriminate. Every time a person from a socially backward caste gets admission in a good institute or gets a well-to-do job, the general remark would be ‘he/she got it because of reservation.’ This sentiment arises because the general public misses out on a lot of opportunities because of almost half of everything being reserved for someone else who generally tends to come from similar economic and educational background.
Constitution makers intended the upliftment of the weaker sections of the society because of the social stigma that they faced and which prevented them from benefiting economically and academically. But today there is a mad rush among people to call themselves socially backward because of the sops available. Many communities want themselves to be listed under the Other Backward Castes or SC/ST category so that they can get an easy route to education and employment.

While Indian educational institutes and the government and government-run companies may suffer from inefficiency arising due to lack of proper expertise and qualifications as a result of implementation of the quota system, India will see more of brain drain as efficient minds and hardworking hands leave the Indian shores. If FDI is opposed by political parties stating that it is similar to inviting East India Company to India again, the quota of Promotion Bill is equivalent to letting the Britishers plunder our wealth and take it to Great Britain.

It is a shame that our politicians play such dirty games to ensure that their vote-banks remain intact. This new bill if passed will override Article 335 of the Constitution that says that the claims of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes have to be balanced with maintaining efficiency in administration. It was based on this that the Supreme Court overruled Mayawati’s attempts to bring in such a rule in Uttar Pradesh.

In a country like India, where economic disparities are large, the government should ideally take steps to help the economically disadvantaged. With improvements in technology and better identification of the needs of citizens through Aadhar and other schemes, the government can definitely do a better job at identifying and helping the economically disadvantaged (of all castes and creed) climb up the socio-economic ladder. We as citizens should also do our duties and be moral and not run for fake caste and income certificates. The enlightened youth of our country should take a pledge that they will not misuse the benefits given to them. It is only when we grow above such petty caste based issues that India can progress and develop on all fronts.

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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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