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How BRICS Affects Us, And What All The Countries Involved Stand To Gain And Loose

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By Sohini Ghosh:

The past week went in a whirlwind of the much discussed and debated conference of BRICS (an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) held in Brazil. While we are yet to receive an official statement from the PMO which leaves us all lurching in a sense of ambiguity as to what to think about it, but there has been no dearth of active and passive news making the rounds as to the positives and negatives of it.

Getting down to the basics primarily, BRICS cumulatively represent one-fifth of the global economy where the countries that happen to be part of BRICS, have rather glaring differences. They remain united by perhaps the only common thread wherein all were experiencing radical shifts in their economic growth at the time of conception. The other common goal that probably unites them at present is to reduce or eliminate dependency on the American dollar by introducing trading in Chinese or Russian currencies. This however seems like a far-fetched goal presently as despite the trading currency, the reserve currency would continue to be the one which succeeds in gaining a stronger hold over the greater part of the global market, which happens to be the USD at present and stands a good chance to remain so for quite some time. Ultimately, irrespective of the currency you trade with, the trading currency shall be converted to the currency that can sustain globally, to form the reserve currency.

The five member nations, despite a common goal, are poles apart in all other aspects. There is a huge population disparity, with China and India forming 1.36 and 1.25 billion people respectively while, Brazil with 200 million, Russia with 114 million and South Africa stands at 53 million.

While South Africa and India have an emerging trend for their GDP growth, China and Brazil remain stagnated going by the growth marked in 2013 and as predicted for 2014 while Russia is recovering in 2014 from its low of 2013. India, Brazil and South Africa, while being functional democracies, differ from the Russian oligarchy and Chinese communism.

The big question that looms is – how India hopes to gain from such an alliance of co-dependency? Truth be told and if reflected upon, perhaps not much. The major bone of contention being China. Yes of course the set-up of a $100 Billion BRICS Development Bank (with China investing upto $41 billion while South Africa investing $5 billion and the rest three nations with $ 18 billion each.) along with a reserve currency pool worth over another $100 billion in China makes us optimistic, but if we delve deeper we are met with the not-so flattering logistics and politics involved. China with a current GDP of $9.25 trillion which is near about 1.4 times the combined GDP of the other 4 nations (with South Africa at a measly low GDP of $0.35 trillion), it would be safe to say that they would inevitably play a far superior role when it comes to extending loans and trading despite being represented as an equal stakeholder on paper, a structurally similar relationship as one can observe between USA and the World Bank where USA continues to pull the strings. South Africa too stands to be exploited, especially their labour and natural resources, as has been the case in the past often deteriorating their production. China and India continues to share a tumultuous unresolved relationship with its border disputes and China’s close association with Pakistan, a country India shares a troublesome past, unstable present and perhaps a questionable future with irreconcilable differences.

Does setting up of the BRICS Development Bank imply complete uncoupling from IMF for India? Maybe. Or maybe not. As the statement released enunciated on the disappointment these member nations were subjected to while dealing with IMF: “We remain disappointed and seriously concerned with the current non-implementation of the 2010 International Monetary Fund (IMF) reforms, which negatively impacts on the IMF’s legitimacy, credibility and effectiveness” and further reinstated the positives of setting up the Development Bank at Shanghai, what it truly and effectively implied, especially for India, is an alternative source to develop and finance her trading as that is the major sector that she is looking at currently, to develop right now in terms of multilateral alliances. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they would discontinue their dependency on IMF but perhaps simply lessen to quite an appreciable extent. However, a likely positive of the Development Bank would be to help meet short term balance of payment pressures.

While India focussed on developing deeper ties with Russia during this meet, possibly because of greater focus on defence, nuclear and energy sectors for this term and Russia being one of the top providers for the same with an economy sustained majorly by catering to the exports of the above mentioned sectors, India stands a good chance bilaterally if not otherwise to gain from this alliance. As PM Narendra Modi himself quoted to the Russian President Putin “Even a child in India, if asked who India’s best friend is, will reply it is Russia because Russia has been with India in times of crisis…”

The ulterior motive of China to control and bend according to its own needs by taking a clairvoyant grip over the bank was evident when negotiations were underway to create an equal power sharing strategy as China argued vehemently that the control be in proportion to the economic growth of a country. It would be foolhardy thus to assume that they wouldn’t push for the same further down the road despite the terms being clear. It is after all hard to let go of the authoritarian ways one is used to.

While China frolics in a phase marked by sporadic growth, Brazil, India and Russia are at a crossroad where they are looking to spend their revenue massively in projects of infrastructure quite specifically. Objectively speaking of India, with its own share of domestic turmoil and the economic mess of a meltdown it stares into right now, it is highly improbable they are at a position to lend significantly to other countries or sustain the positive growth incline for other emerging and developing nations or to the development bank at present and the near future. South Africa looks at a tough road ahead right now with an economy disparately down that needs to be resuscitated as soon as possible with diverse investments. It has been marked off late with an emerging economy but it is unarguably the weakest link of BRICS. Surprisingly enough, China has been a key player in Africa and Latin America spending rather generously, well enabled by the powerful China Development Bank. Coincidence? Maybe not.

BRICS, though aims to be on a path marked by strong sustainable and equitable growth, however, if looked at the intricacies, it is quite easy to conclude that the road to perdition won’t be a far-fetched idea. It is perhaps a matter of time before they disintegrate or erupt into disputes as they remain unified solely by the delicate thread of being ambitiously anti-US funding and defying the cyclic control system fed by the World Bank and IMF. Albeit there is that optimistic scenario we can consider wherein the differences melt quite smoothly while blending in and unanimously reaching a consensus, but that is easier said than done. The presidency of the World Bank gives India a rather pseudo-sense of power which effectively wouldn’t further our agendas in the long run. But it is a step forward to bring about a paradigm shift and the wiser option would be to carefully observe as to how these diplomatic relations chalks out while carefully navigating through the Chinese hegemony.

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  1. alp

    awesome article!!!

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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.

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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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