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The ‘Valuable Lessons’ India Should Learn From The Greek Tragedy

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By Arati Nair

Something has been brewing for quite a while in Greece. Rampant speculation of an economic meltdown, disintegration of the EU and ripple effect in global economies has steadily grown in volume. Every news bulletin over the past week has judiciously devoted some screen time to report this developing story.

However, back home in India the layman remains largely flummoxed. After Sunday’s (5th July) referendum in which over 61 percent Greeks voted decidedly against the bailout package, ‘Grexit’ now seems inevitable, or re-negotiations may get underway soon. But the common Indian fails to comprehend the relevance of the same for our country. This article is an attempt to analyse the lessons in store for us from the imminent Greek tragedy.

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How It All Began

Greece had always been a misfit among other EU nations. Like a vegetarian wolf in a family of carnivores, it sought to enmesh itself with the other heavyweights of the region. Having joined the European Union two years after the founding eleven, Greece became the harbinger for other east European countries (‘If Greece can do it, why not us!’) to join the fold and adopt its currency, the Euro.

The current implosion began way back in 2009, when shortly after the infamous Wall Street crash (2008), Greece announced that it had been understating its deficit figures for a long time. This admission sent shock-waves throughout Europe and paved way for its sovereign debt crisis. The dwindling faith in the Greek economy resulted in sharp decline in investments and export.

Long story short, the godfathers of Europe, including Germany and the troika of International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Union (EU) and the European Central Bank (ECB) stepped in to salvage the situation with a three phase credit disbursement mechanism. Needless to say, Greece defaulted in paying these debts as it had channelised all loans to repay the previous arrears of France and Germany. The left leaning political ideology, coupled with a skewed state-funded pension apparatus hightailed the collapse of the Greek economy. Now with ATMs permitting citizens a daily withdrawal of merely 60 Euros, Greece is staring at a financial catastrophe.

The June 30 deadline to accept the austerity measures put forth by the troika has already passed, and the Greeks have chosen to depart the Euro bind. They have also not paid the outstanding debt to the tune of 1.6 billion Euros to the IMF. The leadership had urged its citizens to vote ‘OXI’ (No) in the referendum, which seems to have been accepted.

Its immediate future notwithstanding, the Greece situation teaches us some valuable lessons.

What Has India Gleaned?

Sanjay Baru’s article in The Hindu succinctly sums up the failure of the European Union in achieving its initial ambitious goals. He explains in detail the fallacies of the European federal structure, which could do precious little to safeguard an economic weakling. Its smug aura of invincibility now lies in shambles as the face-off between Greece and big brother Germany adds fuel to the fire.

The stranglehold of international financial bodies like IMF over member nations undermines their spirit of freedom in economic decisions. New institutions such as the BRICS Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) are viable alternatives for India to ease its dependence on the Bretton Woods organizations. Active and sustained participation could redirect our credit needs to these non-Western agencies.

The safety net for India has been its robust, interdependent federal model and an active banking sector. As Raghuram Rajan recently assured the nation, the foreign exchange reserves in India are deep enough to absorb all shocks. However, alarm bells are ringing with the increase in non-performing assets (NPAs) with public sector banks. NPAs are unrecovered loans, the majority of which in India lies with large corporates and industrialists. These contribute to ten percent of the stressed assets of banks.

The Greek conundrum is also the breakdown of a developed nation in the modern age of liberalisation. An implausible scenario of the previous century has come to be today. India, in the quest for development, must restrict its penchant for corporatisation in every sector to safeguard its economy against plutocracy. In a welfare state, the windfall gains of privatisation do not always trickle down to the masses.

But the Greek pension model is a prime specimen of a welfare initiative gone wrong. Financing the pension package using public funds and the state ex-chequer proved fatal for an economy in regression. Along similar lines, the Indian government has undertaken numerous insurance and pension schemes for varied sections of the populace. This bid for inclusive growth must incorporate adequate checks and balances to cushion all adverse effects on the economy. It is possible through a transparent disclosure of how the government makes use of these funds.

Landmark legislations have been stalled in parliament due to political disagreements. As each fiscal year passes, the government of the day will be put to test. For sustainable growth, it remains pertinent that the nitty-gritty of keys bills like GST, Land Acquistion etc. be examined and quick resolution to the periodic deep freeze of parliamentary sessions be put to rest.

As the financial intricacies of an alien land unravel before us, India can ill-afford to stay complacent. The spectre of the 1929 Great Depression and the global economic crisis of 2008 are timely reminders of even developed nations faltering. As we rush up the progress trajectory, these examples, including the ongoing Greek debt situation, are hard lessons that ought to be imbibed well.

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  1. greek resistance

    The problem lies deep in the mafiaeske greek political system. you cant have a moneytary union if the common standards and laws dont apply also.

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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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