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81% Delhiites Want Full Statehood, But Here’s A Look At The Good And Bad Of It

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By Sanjana Sanghi:

In what could earlier be considered solely Aam Aadmi’s determined demand of full statehood for Delhi, a recent survey carried out suggests 81% of Delhiites, across all barriers of class, caste and background desire the same, which increases the feasibility of holding a referendum by a considerable amount. AAP had taken this fight for statehood to another level when it refused to acknowledge the limited powers of the Delhi Assembly in appointment of the top bureaucrats during the frictional phase of party President Arvind Kejriwal, and Najeeb Jung Lieutenant Governor. The question of Delhi’s statehood is, however, a conundrum laden with complexities and varied possibilities. Here is an attempt to dissect a few.

Image source: Larry Johnson
Image source: Larry Johnson

Let’s first look at a few reasons why Delhi’s demand for statehood is a correct one. For clarity: currently, Delhi is a special Union Territory with unique institutions such as the High Court and an elected Legislative assembly. This assembly, however, does not have powers similar to other state assemblies that has resulted in the elected governments in Delhi to feel crippled in terms of decision making from time to time. At present, public order, police and land fall under the Centre’s jurisdiction, however these reserved areas extend into those which are strictly a state prerogative which forms the core of the problem. With the National Capital Region recently being extended to Muzzafarnagar of Uttar Pradesh and Karnal district of Haryana, a responsible and fully able local government will be imperative. Currently, the Delhi Government has to work with a cadre of bureaucrats chosen for all Union Territories as it cannot recruit it’s own. In addition, land allocation, is under the Centre’s control as the Delhi Development Authority is headed by the Union Government through the LG.

Agreed, that is way too much information to take in. However, it is essential to analyze the restrictions the Delhi Government faces, in order to judge the demand for full statehood as fair or not. According to this precedent, the current structure renders the Delhi government as severely handicapped in terms of autonomy and ability to make certain crucial decisions.

Let us also look at the flip side. The flip side suggests certain severe shortfalls that could backfire, if statehood is brought about, without a change in AAP’s fundamental outlook to governance. For a city-state to be economically independent and flourishing, a large number of non-polluting and value-adding manufacturing units will have to be set up. These will inevitably require highly skilled and trained manpower possible only with a structurally organized government machinery. Kejriwal, on the other hand has consistently spoke of “mohalla sabhas”, that seem unlikely to come up with the possibility of solving the pressing problems of a rapidly expanding state, and more inclined towards resolving a neighborhood brawl or power cut.

The term city-state is not nearly as simple as it sounds. The future of Delhi lies in Kejriwal deciding whether he wishes to run Delhi as a city or a state. A state has a vastly diverse rural and urban population, spatially segregated and distributed with vast stretches of land for power plants and irrigation projects. Delhi has neither, it has a heterogeneous urban population, topped with a constant influx of migrants and land is a severely limited resource. On receiving full statehood, it will also experience the withdrawal of all subsidies from the Centre on power and water which instantly thrashes the hopes of tariff cuts that Kejriwal filled every voter’s heart with. Moreover, the extent of structural and functional upheaval that the transition to full statehood will put Delhi under; the several urgent needs of the aam aadmi Kejriwal had promised will land on the backburner.

While the CM has asked the Urban Development Department to come up with a feasibility report, the BJP and Congress have termed this demand for statehood as unconstitutional and dangerous. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s complete support for Kejriwal’s demand and the promise that his party along with others will raise the issue in Parliament, serves as encouragement for the AAP government, which has continuously felt that the LG’s interference in several matters is a deliberate attempt by the Centre to take matters under its own control. The politics and war-of-words aside, without revamping and rebooting Kejriwal’s outlook of governance at large, Delhi’s sethani-khandaani culture and shortage of essential resources will prevent it from stepping into the developmental trajectory that is essential to make the city-state dream with a fully endowed and independent state government a realistic possibility.

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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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