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Ek Saal Modi Sarkar: Separating Fact From Fantasy

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By Ali Abbas

While majority of the media may project it as a glorious one year for Modi government, as a layman belonging to minority community and working with an NGO, I fear we are heading towards authoritarian regime.

A year back, Modiji sold the dream of development, for which his government secured an absolute majority in the parliament. But if we separate facts from fantasies, his development dream is turning out to be a business plan for certain corporate houses.

Comparing with what was promised and what is delivered, it seems like, “Make the lie big, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.

modi govt.

Saffronization

Extremist right wing forces are on the rise, targeting minorities has only increased in one year. And by minorities I mean not just Muslims, but also Christians, Dalits and other non-Hindu communities.

Polarisation of votes before every state election seems to be the underlining strategy of BJP’s “Chanakya” Amit Shah. With every poll, a fresh attack is launched on minorities by introducing terms like “Love Jihad” and “Bahu Lao, Beti Bachao“.

Seems like “Ghar Wapsi” is now a full-fledged programme. It has endorsement, not just from RSS the ideological mentor of BJP, but also from some BJP Parliamentarians. Sadhvi Saraswati predicts that through proper implementation of Ghar Wapsi, the population of Hindus will soon reach to 125 crore by “reconverting” Muslims and Christians. We have also noticed numerous attacks on churches in the past year.

Be it “Hindu women must have at least 4 children” or describing Nathuram Godse as patriot by M.P. Sakshi Maharaj, M.P. Aditiyanath accusing Muslims for frequent communal riots in UP, or the latest from MoS for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, “Those who cannot live without eating beef should go to Pakistan“.  Such irresponsible comments either caused fear and mistrust among minorities other irrational comments became laughing stock on social networking sites.

Muzzling Dissent In Democracy

Civil society has a long history of representing people’s voices. Their opinion plays the crucial role in framing laws and further implementation on ground. Activist fights for the issues which are otherwise ignored by authorities and main stream media. NGOs reach out and support to millions of downtrodden people in the country. They take up societal building activities and employ nearly 20 million people.

But the Modi government thinks otherwise. In the past one year there has been a crackdown on civil societies, NGOs and other social organizations. The most targeted one is Greenpeace India, a leading environmental organization in 42 countries is on the verge of shutting down its office in India. It was alleged that the Ford Foundation is “interfering in the internal affairs” and “abetting communal disharmony” through social activist Teesta Setalvad’s Sabrang trust and under Home Ministry’s scanner. The Home ministry further cancelled the registration of 8975 NGOs.

The most common reasons cited for such actions by Home Ministry is, these organizations and activists are obstacles in the “development” of the country. The most common way is to “leak a report” in the media and before the organization or activist responds, chock their funding.

In one statement PM Modi expressed, “The judiciary is not as fearless today as it used to be ten years back. Are five-star activists not driving the judiciary?” He not just ridiculed activism but also undermined the judiciary.

Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

The past year has noticed major amendments and dilution in laws, the most infamous being the Land Acquisition Bill. Social activist Anna Hazara asked for an open debate with Prime Minister on the Bill and said, “The government is tweaking the law to benefit the corporates and bring ‘achhe din’ for them.

Opposition parties and some of government’s own allies have strongly objected the bill terming it as pro-corporate and anti-farmer. Unable to pass it in the parliament with no numbers in Rajya Sabha, the Bill was finally sent to a 30 member joint committee.

Also in the list is the dilution of the power of National Green Tribunal as an advisory body. Whistle-blower protection act has been diluted on the pretext of “National Security“. In its attempts to influence industrial driven development, the government is shrinking the rights of farmers and tribal communities while environmental degradation is at its peak.

This year’s performance leaves enough to predict the next four years, and it looks worrisome.
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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 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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