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Everything You Need To Know About The Prime Minister’s Digital India Programme

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By Abhishek Jha

The government launched the Digital India Week on 1st July from the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium. The two-hour long event saw speeches from Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Communications and Information Technology Minister, Arun Jaitely, the I&B minister, corporate leaders, and the Prime Minister himself. Also, during the event, the PM launched a number of projects for the government’s Digital India programme. The country, which is the third largest internet user after China and the United States, could definitely benefit from a programme that brings digital infrastructure to its population.

digital india weekThe programme aims to provide digital infrastructure and e-governance and empower citizens by making them digitally literate and making digital resources accessible to them. A major challenge to all these programmes however, could be the end of net-neutrality. Heads of telecom companies opposed to net-neutrality were also present at the launch ceremony and it would be worrisome if they created impediments in the government’s programme by fighting against net-neutrality.

Power is also a major hurdle if we are dreaming of a digital India. Villages that get electricity for barely a few hours a day are going to have little use for all the services available on the Internet. They are going to remain stuck in the red-taped bureaucracy.

Also, one needs to keep in mind that the power of the Internet is revolutionary only if it remains the democratic space that it once was. In the documentary Citizenfour, Edward Snowden says, “I remember what the Internet was like before it was being watched. There has never been in the history of man anything like it. You could have children from one part of the world having an equal discussion where they were, sort of, granted the same respect for their ideas in conversation with experts in a field from another part of the world on any topic, anywhere, anytime, all the time.” If this freedom is curbed by laws like 66A, for which this government (as much as the one preceding it) fought, which aim to muzzle Internet freedom with vague generalities, there is nothing sanguine in the programme’s announcement. A Digital India is a very much welcome move if it doesn’t end up being just another scheme that looks good only on paper.

Here, however, are the highlights of the announced projects:

1. The Internet: The programme aims to provide broadband coverage to 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats by December 2016 and mandate communication infrastructure in new buildings in urban areas. Under the National Rural Internet Mission, 1.5 lakh post offices are to be made into multi-service centres. Free WiFi in 2.5 lakh schools, a digital literacy programme is also proposed. The new government has already started interacting with the public through the use of social media. Other web-based platforms to facilitate “2-way communication” between the government and the public.

2. Mobile Connectivity: With a 16,000 crore estimated cost, mobile coverage is to be provided to about 42,300 villages. It is an ongoing programme for increased network penetration and to cover gaps. Mobiles are also to help provide emergency services.

3. e-Governance: On the line of government’s “Minimum Government, Maximum Governance” slogan, it is to rev up bureaucratic procedures. With “online applications and tracking“, “use of online repositories“, use of UIDAI and Payment Gateway platforms, it aims to reduce the paperwork to “improve transactions“. A “process improvement” in public grievance redressal system is likely since the programme is going to use IT to automate processes and analyse data to resolve problems.

4. Net Zero Imports: A combination of Digital India with the Make In India campaign, it aims to reduce all electronic imports to zero by 2020. The government admits that the existing structure for the programme is inadequate and needs strengthening.

5. IT For Jobs: As part of a new scheme, the government wishes to train 1 crore students over 5 years to makes them ready for the IT workforce. There is a special programme for the north-eastern states that is to set up BPO centres in every NE state. Similar workforce creation is also to take place for the Telecom services. An ongoing programme is training service delivery agents to deliver IT services.

6. Early Harvest Programmes: These are programmes with a short timeline of completion. They include programmes like biometric attendance in all central government offices in Delhi, WiFi in universities, public WiFi hotspots in cities with a population greater than 1 million and at tourist centres, SMS based weather information and disaster alerts, etc.

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  1. pinki dey

    Comment *i like prime ministers digital india programme now i think that we are going in way of progress like usa and ingland..i wish that prime ministers digital programme will prove to be a grand success.

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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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