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Beyond The Modi vs Congress Debate, let’s Pay Attention To Things That Actually Matter: To Saving Lives!

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By Prashant Kaushik:

A few things remind me that how cheap our lives have become. And that we have stopped worrying, at least politically, about the threats to our lives which keep stealing time from our lives, from days to years.

Every year, TB claims more than 1,00,000 lives in our country. Around 20-30 lakhs people suffer from this disease. The unfortunate thing is, that this happens in spite of an existing cure for this disease. We are just failing to prevent a huge number of deaths. Shockingly, It has been reported in Media, that the government may soon be running out of stock of the life saving medicine due to its half hearted efforts.


Similarly, road accidents consume more than 1,00,000 lives in this country. Still, our state RTO departments so carelessly keep distributing Driving License without taking any tests. The stress is more on arranging the address and ID proof documents than checking the ability of a driver to drive. Adding to this, our roads continue to be in a pathetic state. Missing footpaths, missing traffic signals, scarcity of traffic policemen and broken roads are all causes that, if taken care of, could have saved the lives of thousands of youth. It could be alleged that people die in road accidents due to their own mistakes, but it would simply be shrugging off responsibility on part of the government.

Maternal deaths: Around 56,000 women die because of it. In simple words, those mothers who die while or soon after giving birth to a child. Leading reports say that more 90% of them are avoidable. 80% of such deaths occur just because of excessive bleeding, which can be easily avoided if proper medical care is available. Such vast number of women don’t die a similar death in European countries is proof enough.

The story has no end. Floods, droughts, lack of health care , we are getting killed where we shouldn’t be.

On an average, each one of us live 20 years less than a similar human being in Japan does and around 15 years less than a normal European. Ironically, that happens even when our country is bestowed with such vast natural resources of fertile land and water, with such good climatic conditions.

For the sake of it, there are government schemes to tackle these issues. But they remain ineffective, badly implemented and only partially successful. The reasons being corruption and lack of diligent governance.

But not one popular mainstream leader seems worried about it. The upcoming Lok Sabha elections, which have so far been projected as Modi vs Congress, seem to hover around a single agenda of secularism. A number of leaders over whelmingly criticized Modi and ostracized him for being non secular. But among these debates of Secular vs Non-Secular, there seem to be no one even remotely concerned about those lakhs of deaths which could be prevented by simply providing fair governance.

Gujarat riots had taken a precious thousand lives and left a scar on national conscience. I don’t intend to under estimate the value of lives lost in Gujarat. Every life is precious, I repeat, every single life. But that happened once and 12 years ago. Our country is still bleeding from fresh wounds, deaths are spilling like blood from an open wound and instead of healing this wound at the earliest, everyone is busy in the debates over a miscarriage of past. What should have been a cause of remorse and penance has become a source to generate fear and create polarization and vote banks and reap votes to suit their selfish electoral interests.

The so called secularists seem to be losing a major base among the educated middle class because of their over emphasis on secularism. Let me be rude to say, in other words, as many as 20 times more than those of Gujarat 2002 mishap, will unfairly perish in the year 2013 , in 2014, in 2015 and so on.

Shouldn’t these untimely deaths be prevented ? It’s a tragedy, that since these lakhs of deaths are not directly encashable to votes as those thousands deaths of Godhara riots are, no one seems keen to stop them. So, politicians keep on playing with our emotions, year after year. The real sufferers are no one but Indians and they belong to all sections. These deaths, can and must be prevented. Remember, we can live 20 more years of our life. We can live un-robbed, un-raped, un-crushed in a land which as Tagore once rightly dreamed of – a land without fear.

But for that we will have to think, think beyond religion, beyond castes.  A teenager who looses his life on a road, crushed under the brutal wheels of a truck, does it matter which caste he belonged to? If TB medicines are available, along with other vital drugs, would not they save life of people from all communities? A women should never die on way to her motherhood, no matter which religion she follows.

We are ignoring these deaths, which occur every day, every hour, every second, not really much far from our locations. Look around yourself. You will definitely find many victims of such pathetic public services. We have forgotten that we deserved a better treatment and a better governance. Because our minds are constantly fed with secular vs communal. We forget this because we are more concerned about symbolic gestures, about token words of secularism rather than any ground work which can actually make a positive difference to our lives.

Next time, when the nation stands on the polls, pledge to ask your leaders, if they will go beyond those empty promises of caste, creed and region. We don’t need any jingoism or rhetoric dialogues. We just need a safe, secure and healthy country to live in.

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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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