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“A Constant State Of Trauma” At IIT Jodhpur – A Letter From An Alumnus

By Aayush Raj:

Dear Ministry of HRD,

As the tiniest cog in the Indian education system, I reach out to you via this medium to make sure my voice is not stifled by the red-tape of your endless procedures and that you may understand the plight of my brethren. IITs are, without doubt, the ace educational institutes of the country and for those who enter it, not only a passport of better life, but a channel to serve science and society. But is everything right at IIT Jodhpur, my alma mater?

IIT Jodhpur

Established very recently to increase the opportunity of quality higher education in India, IIT Jodhpur has successfully made its mark in every field – be it academia, research, placements, sports, or entrepreneurship. We not only produce the finest engineers, but have the distinction of the first team gold by a new IIT in the Sports Meet; and have successfully incubated two companies in the first five years of our existence. Yet when I see the rampant malpractices and misappropriation of duty by the caretakers, and the cheap games played with the life and careers of students and faculty of IIT Jodhpur, believe me, my soul cries for change.

The root of trouble stems from abuse of power by the Director, IIT Jodhpur, and his agenda of running IIT Jodhpur as his personal fiefdom. With the institute already facing a severe faculty crunch, he has used petty personal grudges to terminate faculty indiscriminately, leading to even more resignations. At this point, the faculty-student ratio in IITJ is 18:1, more than twice as much as the recommended 8:1 for IITs.

Matters came to a head recently on 29 March 2015, when Dr. Ganesh Bagler, an Assistant Professor in Biology department, was terminated despite excellent research, classroom and overall performance. The entire student community and faculty are outraged at such blatant disrespect, and the utter lack of motivation behind this. The official statement cites an “academic performance review”, a document prepared by a committee chaired by him, whose members hold office at his pleasure, which meets behind closed doors, acts upon procedures never made public, and whose actions are above scrutiny. Dr. Bagler’s case is just one of the many faculty terminations that have a common thread: the erstwhile faculty had somehow spoken up against him or his policies.

The rampant and baseless cases of termination have created an unhealthy and severely unprofessional atmosphere in IITJ, with reputed faculty members hoping to quit here and get away from what they call “a constant state of trauma.” The situation has deteriorated to an extent where courses are getting scraped due to lack of faculty, or being run via Skype by faculty loaned from other colleges.

The immoral terminations have hit hard on one of the fundamental pillars of IIT – the research activities. With so few faculty members, postgraduate students are finding it hard to get suitable mentors from the professors. Also given the fact that the existing faculty is being terminated without any regard, the postgraduates under said faculty is left with a bleak future. They are given the Hobson’s choice of either giving up their life’s work and choosing a new research interest, or giving up on their post-graduation dream itself. For a researcher to give up nearly two decades of their life’s work just because one man wants things his own way is downright autocratic and a total breach of everything our system stands for.

In yet another move that staked the entire career of over 100 students, the Director decided to shut down two undergraduate programs, even as students of earlier batches admitted to the same programs were left to fend for themselves. After tremendous student resistance last year prevented him, this year he had the decision passed nonetheless, even going to the extent of keeping the student community in the dark, lying in official meetings, and releasing the office orders to public four months late to ensure no protests!

For the past year, student activities at IITJ have faced severe problems due to the dictatorial attitude of the Director. Not only the say of students in their own welfare has been cut down to almost zero, his strict centralization of power has made faculty powerless to support the Students’ Body. Time and again he has flouted the students’ right to make decisions regarding the functioning of student bodies. More often than not, his tactics are below-the-belt; aimed at exacting personal revenge against anybody who dares to speak up against him or his policies. He is famous for making false promises shamelessly in public, and then turning back on his words and blaming someone for the whole issue.

This is not about some official documents; this is not about how an institute should be run. This is about our lives and the truth that we shall not allow them to become pawns in one man’s game. Our dreams are valuable, our lives hold purpose and we demand what we rightfully deserve. Are your offices so full of dusty files that you cannot hear our voices? Or are we too insignificant for you to care?

Our demand is simple. We want #FreedomForIITJ!

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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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