This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Moumita Ghosh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Confessions Of A ‘Cog In The Wheel’: Jayanthi Natarajan’s Letter To Sonia Gandhi

More from Moumita Ghosh

By Moumita Ghosh

“Over the last 11 months, I have suffered the most excruciating mental agony, and have been continuously attacked, wrongly vilified and defamed in the media, and exposed to every possible humiliation in public life” – wrote Jayanthi Natarajan, former Union Environment Minister to Congress chief, Sonia Gandhi in a letter dated November 5th, 2014. Two months later, Natarajan, a fourth generation Congress worker and a senior leader, announced her resignation from the primary membership of the party this Friday. The news comes a few months after former Union Shipping Minister GK Vasan left Congress to revive the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) in Tamil Nadu.

Indian Minister of Environment and Fores

Spoiler-alert: Of Resignations and Washrooms
The letter, which has been dubbed as an ‘image-bachao abhiyaan‘ by Congress leader Singhvi and which is now available with the media, presents a dramatic depiction of the circumstances under which Natarajan’s stint as a minister came to an end, of which she writes- “the disaster which happened to me on the December 20, 2013, was a thunderbolt, which hit me from the blue and destroyed my life.” She was also later removed from the position of the party spokesperson in January 2014 despite having an efficient track-record for ten years straight. This was, she claims, after Sonia Gandhi’s instruction to her to refrain from speaking to the media about the former’s much controversial resignation. Natarajan recalls that she was “asked” to resign by the Congress president on account of her requirement for party work but it was merely a strategy, she adds, to exploit her as a scapegoat in order to project a pro-industry image of the party, thus presenting her as the- “focal point for the perceived failure of the economy at that time.” Tagging her orchestrated resignation as a “sentence of death”, she posed a simple question to Sonia Gandhi– “Surely you were aware that removing a Minister just one hundred days before Lok Sabha elections without any wrongdoing being even alleged against her, and on the contrary, the Prime Minister lauding my work in writing, would have devastating effects upon me, my career, everything I have worked for over 30 years, and above all the patriotic legacy of my family?” But perhaps, the most amusing part of the letter was the instance of how an important file during the UPA regime was later found in the “washroom of the computer section” for whichever reasons.

Green Laws During UPA Rule: Whimsical?
In what has been also dubbed as a “scathing attack on Rahul Gandhi” by the media on Friday, Natarajan mentioned about the Congress vice-president’s prompt interference in all her decisions during her tenure, including blockage of green clearances. Hence, it seemed rather ironical to her when Mr. Gandhi addressed the industry body FICCI with her resignation in the background, indirectly portraying her as the “bottleneck” for “unwarranted delays in major projects”. Baffled at her unforeseen removal from office and not having received a reason for it, coupled with generous media reports of her perceived incompetence as a minister despite adhering to pro-environment party decisions made at the “highest level”, Natarajan desperately sought for an appointment with Rahul Gandhi who conveniently evaded her requests at the pretext of “running a little busy”. While BJP opined on Saturday that –‘Decisions in the previous UPA governments were taken at the whims of the Gandhis’ and that the decisions by the Environment Ministry during UPA rule should be reviewed, there is no denying that the rejection of the environmental clearance to the billion-dollar open-cast mining project of the Vedanta Company in the Niyamgiri hill range during the UPA’s tenure was indeed laudable.

The “environmental rampage” only began with the appointment of Veerappa Moily, Natarajan’s successor, who was also amusingly enough, in charge of Petroleum and Natural Gas at that point of time. Such a move by the UPA seemed more like a desperate attempt to score well in the 2014 general elections, especially in the face of threat to its uninterrupted existence at the Centre by the bursting on the scene of BJP. What followed was a series of quick clearances of about 73 projects within 20 days of Moily’s assuming office which was accompanied with environmental hazards and prompt violations of both human and community forest rights. It is also quite hard to ignore that the minister’s fast-track stint featured the approval of the likes of the POSCO’s steel project in Orissa (presently stalled) which had in its backdrop, eight years of forced evictions and transit camps, local protests which met with police barricades and firings and potential threats to the unique biodiversity of the area: a backdrop which can be attempted to be summed up in these words- “The last time I felt safe was before POSCO came.” – uttered by C.G., a betel farmer who was injured in a police firing and whose brother was jailed as a result of resisting forced evictions for the POSCO-India project.(Source– The Price of Steel: Human Rights and Forced Evictions in the POSCO-India Project).

250 Days of NDA Rule:
Does the present scenario provide for some relief, you ask? Well, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who Natarajan was forced to “fiercely attack” by party directives on the snoopgate scandal, and the government that he heads, is not sensitive to environmental concerns either. The BJP-led NDA gave us a re-written set of environmental laws and recommendations by an appointed committee – both of which are more corporate friendly than environment-friendly, besides giving the green signal to the construction of the Dibang Dam in Arunachal Pradesh without any sort of public consultation, earlier this year. But before we point fingers at the government, let us ask ourselves: how often do we even bother with the environmental manifestos of the various political parties, if at all? While we were busy chanting “Ab ki baar, Modi sarkaar” this time, obviously attracted by the prospect of vikaas along the lines of the “Gujrat model”, I doubt whether any of us even bothered to find out about the environmental concerns in the same state which in any case, does not provide for a very pleasant picture.

You must be to comment.
  1. bjp

    It’s great post. thanks for shearing it.

More from Moumita Ghosh

Similar Posts

By Aditya Lakshmi

By Aastha Maggu

By Puja Bhattacharjee

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below