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Four Things That The Congress/UPA-II Did Right In The Last Year

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By Sonakshi Samtani:

The UPA has been mired in various scams and controversies throughout its rule. It has passed some very important bills in the last year though. Populist pre-election gimmick or not, it surely has been widely appreciated. Here’s a brief look at 4 of the most important bills:


1. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013: A piece of legislation providing for the amendment of Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. It pertains to laws on sexual offences and was originally an ordinance, passed in the wake of the Dec 16 gang rape protests. Under this new Act, certain acts are now classified as offences – Acid attacks or attempts to acid attacks, stalking, voyeurism, etc. The definition of rape now includes acts beyond vaginal penetration

However, it is problematic that the offences of voyeurism, stalking and rape are not gender neutral and according to this law, only a man can commit these offences on women. This raises serious questions on how the laws are not taking into account that men could also be physically violated. This actually prevents the law from doing any right to the society’s perception of men and women’s sexuality, on the other hand, it further corrupts it.

Full text of the Act.

2. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement Act, 2013: It is a complex piece of legislation that has found takers and opponents alike. India had been functioning with the ancient Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and all its shortcomings for a very long time now. The earlier law allowed forced acquisitions and failed to provide for rehabilitation to those displaced. In addition to that, the ambiguity of the urgency clause in the previous law led to unaccounted acquisitions and low rates of compensation and shaped the requirement for a new land acquisition law that considered the interests of land-owners equally.

The new act tries to meet all these shortcomings and aims to provide a more holistic legislation. This act provides for compensation of up to four times the market value in rural areas and two times in urban areas. Moreover, it is now mandatory to obtain the consent of the land owners. It also provides for leasing of land to developers, hence providing for a regular income by the way of lease rent. It restricts the acquisition of multi-crop agricultural land to 5% in a district and also provide certain provisions for rehabilitation of the land owners.

However, there are multiple contentions over this act too, since it is believed to discourage foreign investors due to the new restrictions. Moreover, the cost of industrial establishments might go up by multiple times. It is also criticized for not providing adequate protection to small land-owners and marginal farmers.

Though there are drawbacks to this bill but it cannot be denied that it it a progressive step from the draconian Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

3. Right to Information Act: It might be difficult to consider how beneficial the RTI has actually been after Rahul Gandhi almost chanted ‘RTI’ and ‘Women Empowerment’ in his seemingly endless interview with Arnab Goswami, but the fact remains that RTI has given to this country what no other piece of legislation could ever provide, that is a chance to know how the government actually functions. The RTI applications cannot be easily ignored and every application essentially opens a file in the government records and needs to be answered in a fixed span of time. While the UPA government has had a very corrupt record, the loopholes in budgets were made known through the provisions that RTI provides. The achievement of the UPA-II government in this regard has been the consistency in the processing of RTI applications and having a stable mechanism in place for the second term as well.

At this juncture, we need more awareness about the RTI and the process involved in filing an RTI, so that more and more people can come forward and make use of it.

4. National Food Security Act: This is another act passed in 2013 that has been widely debated for its hurried implementation and numerous loopholes in framework. It aims at providing subsidized food to about 67% of the country’s population. 75% of the rural and 50% of the urban population are expected to receive 5 kg of wheat, rice and coarse cereals at Rs. 3. Rs. 2 and Rs. 1 respectively. Moreover, pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to free meals.

However, opponents contend that a food subsidy raise from Rs. 90,000 crore to Rs. 1,30,000 crore doesn’t ensure smooth functioning of the ration shops and the leakages in PDS. Moreover, such a high budget allocation would make it difficult to maintain the current fiscal deficit at 4.8% of the GDP.

Nonetheless, it is a step is in the right direction. However, it is advisable that the government rework the criterion for deciding the beneficiaries and reform the PDS system to avoid leakages. This could also help reduce the budget allocation to the program.

You must be to comment.
  1. Sarabjeet Singh

    Was the The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 really wise when it left out amending sec377 from it ??!

  2. KS

    Food Security is the last thing we need in our country right now. First of all it is sad that even after 67 years we need a bill like that. And all it provides is 500 K Cal of nutrition in a day, out of the required 2500 K Cal. That isn’t enough at all. On the top of it, it creates a hole in the pocket of Indian Economy. Rather, UPA should have tried, giving employment, rather than food.

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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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