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Despite Criminal Charges, Bihar’s ‘Robin Hood’ Candidates Will Probably Win The Elections

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By Jai Prakash Ojha for Youth Ki Awaaz:

The stage is all set for the 3rd phase of the Bihar Assembly Elections in 41 constituencies on 28 October 2015. One of the hallmarks of this election has been the distribution of a large number of tickets to candidates who have criminal cases pending against them despite all the dim and bustle about the need to purge the political system. Out of 808 candidates in the 3rd phase, 215 have criminal cases against them. 162 candidates out of 215 are charged with serious criminal offences like murder, kidnapping and crimes against women as per the ADR report based on affidavits of candidates.

In the 1st phase for 49 constituencies, out of 583 candidates, 170 have criminal antecedents. The picture is not different for the 2nd phase as 140 candidates have criminal cases against them out of a total number of 456. All the parties have been guilty of putting up criminal candidates and this has happened despite the ban on convicted candidates from contesting elections, the proactive role of civil society and judiciary and the crusading role of the Election Commission in ensuring free and fair elections.

Image source: Google+
Image source: Google+

Why Parties Give Them Tickets

Why do the political parties put up muscle men as their candidates? There is nothing much to ponder over this as it is not a big deal. Most of the criminal candidates in Bihar have a ‘Robin Hood’ type of image and they are not short of finances when it comes to distribution of freebies, cash and liquor. They may extort and kidnap, but keep their constituency in good humour. The chances of success are therefore more.

Since, a major chunk of the electorate is poor and illiterate, freebies attract them rather than any political vision – which has never been the trademark of criminal candidates. People want instant benefits and also protection. Since all the parties give tickets to such elements, there is very little to choose among the candidates and electorate has very few options. In this era of coalition governments and unstable political equations, it is very important for major political parties to prevent their MLAs from horse trading and poaching. It is here that the role of musclemen becomes pivotal to shape the fortunes of any party. Moreover, support of the musclemen ensures not only caste votes for the party but also votes cutting across caste lines as most of the criminal candidates have developed a patron–client sort of relationship with the people. Very few people dare to go against the wishes of these candidates as the repercussions are quite often dangerous. It’s not only the fear factor that fetches votes for the musclemen, but it is also their ability to get the work of their voters done even when the ruling party is not friendly. A normal politician if not in power finds it difficult to get the work of his/her supporters done.

All said and done, it can’t be denied that very often, political leaders agitate over public issues or issues that attract votes. The ruling parties slap them with cases for political reasons. There is a need to separate serious crimes from politics.

Fallout

All the parties need the mafia to buttress their chances. In the recently concluded 2014 Lok Sabha elections, around one-third of the elected representatives have criminal backgrounds. When we look at Bihar, according to Bihar Election Watch, the 2010 Bihar Assembly witnessed 141 MLAs with criminal cases getting elected. Out of these MLAs, 85 are having serious charges against them. Despite the entire hullabaloo, the number of criminal candidates registered a sharp increase of 21 percent compared to 2005 Assembly Elections. Entry of more and more such candidates may sabotage the sanctity of the House. Already, the nation has seen the quality of debates and discussions going down as members don’t hesitate to exercise their lung power and use unparliamentary language. Disruptions are the new norms in parliamentary democracy. The new lows in vocabulary in Bihar elections campaigning may be fallout of these rowdy elements. Their entry in the House as law-makers is ludicrous as law-breakers can’t be expected to make laws. It is also a sad reflection of the sordid state of affairs into which the nation has plunged.

‘Bihar Elections With Ojha’ is part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s special coverage of the Bihar 2015 elections.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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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