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6 Years Since 26/11: How Safe Are We?

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By Deep C:

November 26th – it has been six years since 26/11. Yet, our political leaders and the security establishment don’t seem to have succeeded in plugging the loopholes that caused hundreds of lives to be lost. “The State is sitting on a ticking time bomb”, said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of West Bengal after the Burdwan blast. This is not an issue we can do much about personally. However, we can surely pose a question to the NSA –

Don’t you think we pay you to get us off that bomb, Mr. Doval?

terrorist attacks

Consider the following:

• While the country was celebrating the Mahatma’s birth anniversary, a bomb went off unintended in Burdwan, West Bengal. In the investigation that has followed, it is clear that a branch of the Indian Mujahideen (IM) had planned a series of ten blasts in Kolkata.
The Hindu reported on 7th November that “For the first time since the fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim left the country, he has gone off the radar of intelligence agencies…” and “Intelligence sources say his arch rival, gangster Chhota Rajan, is also untraceable.”
• According to the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, 1034 security personnel have fallen prey to Maoist attacks in the last 5 years.
• In September, the al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the formation of al Qaeda’s branch for the Indian subcontinent specifically referring to cells in Kashmir, Gujarat and Assam through a video release.
• According to the Global Terrorist Index 2014 India is the 6th worst terrorist-affected country in 2013 and terrorism in India increased by 70% from 2012 to 2013.

These facts suggest that the counter-terrorism and internal security apparatus in India are failing. Here I draw your attention to five of the most dangerous vulnerabilities and possible remedies (most often they are implicit):

1. Coastal Security- A CAG report pegged the shortfall in sea patrolling between 78 per cent and 91 per cent and night patrolling from zero to 34 per cent of the prescribed frequency and out of the 50 coastal check-posts and coastal outposts completed, 36 remained non-operational as police personnel were not deployed. A number of organizations have been delegated with coastal security such as the Navy, the CISF, the customs and the agriculture departments without clearly cut out objectives. Also, there are less than 100 vessels patrolling more than 7500 kilometers of India’s coastline. It would be better if a single department is vested with the authority and responsibility to oversee and co-ordinate security for the coastal areas (apart from installing the missing infrastructure). It must be remembered that the band of 26/11 terrorists had entered India through the western coast.

2. Radicalization of the youth- The Global Terror Index 2014 says – “Communist terrorist groups are by far the most frequent perpetrators and the main cause of deaths in India. Three Maoist communist groups claimed responsibility for 192 deaths in 2013, which was nearly half of all deaths from terrorism in India… Islamist groups were responsible for around 15 per cent of deaths… Separatist groups including in Assam, Bodoland, Kamtapur and Meghalaya were responsible for 16 per cent of deaths targeting private citizens, police and businesses…” According to reports in the media, the ISI has not only been training and funding Maoists and insurgents; they are also trying to radicalize Muslims. Thus, the government must ensure to that the youth of our country don’t get radicalized by designing welfare schemes and generating educational and employment opportunities, especially in the Maoist infested areas, the North-East and Kashmir.

3. Police- According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the police-population ratio in India is 138 for every 10000 people, way behind the minimum of 222 per lakh during peacetime as recommended by the UN. Further a paltry amount of 1.25 rupees per person per day is spent on the police. There is a 23.7% and 18.7 % vacancy in the civil and armed police forces respectively, and 30% of the sanctioned posts in the Intelligence Bureau. With miniscule fractions of the total expenditure on police spent on training and ammunition, the police forces are ill-equipped to deal with emergencies. Thus police reforms addressing these issues must be initiated at the earliest.

4. Borders- a) Even though the Army has been successfully foiling infiltration attempts along the western border, the India- Bangladesh border has a huge porosity due to a common border of 4096 kilometers. It is insufficiently fenced and most of it doesn’t have any natural obstacle running through rivers, lakes, agricultural fields and villages. It is quite logical that while the army is kept busy on one front, terrorists infiltrate through another. Fencing has been slow, even though this issue is often raked up in the parliament due to the possibilities of illegal immigration it allows.
b) A mechanism must be evolved to establish who fires the first bullet in the volatile border areas where Indian and Pakistani forces sit face to face since after every event of cross border firing Pakistan says it’s India who started. This in effect could lead to decreased infiltration efforts that are aided by the Pakistani establishment.

5. The US way- We must learn from the US the art of warding of terrorist attacks the way it has after 9/11. According to an investigative report published in 2010 by the Washington Post, “1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counter terrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the U.S., most of which were formed since 2001. Together, the bureaucrats within these agencies write approximately 50,000 intelligence reports per year on suspected terrorist activities. In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.”

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  1. Babar

    I skimmed through the article until point 5 caught my eye. I suggest you look into the mysterious deaths of key 9/11 victims. Also, see the video below.

    http://youtu.be/ygyW4RZctnA

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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.

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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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