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Why Is Ruia College Working On A Railway Station Rather Than On Its Own Facilities?

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By Atharva Pandit:

Hardly a ten-minute walk from Ruia College, Matunga station is perhaps the sole convenient commute option for students who traverse daily, from the central line stations of Mumbai. A small station compared to its immediate neighbour Dadar, it is marked by several shops selling everything from magazines to vada pavs to stationery and is flanked by the Matunga market, which in itself borders King’s Circle and boasts of some of the best Udupi joints in the city. That’s not to mention the vegetable and fruit sellers which do their business every day in the glaring sun. The station might be small, but it harbours a lot of people and a lot of hopes.

Image source: WordPress
Image source: WordPress

On October 13th, several newspapers across Mumbai reported that the trio of Wellingkar Institute of Management Studies, Poddar College of Commerce and Ruia College were planning an ambitious project to convert Matunga station into a station with ‘most modern facilities’. By and large, this would then be extended to the whole of Matunga, with plans to convert it into an educational hub. “Matunga has some of the best educational institutes,” Dr. Uday Salunke, who is the Director of WeSchool Group, which is at the forefront of this project, told the dailies. “And with a population of nearly 70,000 students, can we not look at the possibility of turning this ecosystem into a student-centric university township that will nurture our global citizen leaders?” the newspapers further quoted him opining.

The project has been undertaken under Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ model, which aims to ‘transform India into a global manufacturing hub’, according to the description on its official website. And while this project has been launched under the aim of benefiting ‘thousands of commuting students’, the students themselves had little idea about it. When they read about it, however, they gave out mixed responses.

I would appreciate this idea since it could act as the changing turn of the stereotype stations,” reasoned Rohit Machcha, a Second Year Commerce student at Poddar College. “Modern railway stations will not only make the travel quick but also make it safe by using modern technology,” he further added. “The idea and the thought behind this whole concept is quite brilliant,” Aishwarya Mushunari, a First Year BMM student at Ruia College stated, adding, “with a good direction, I think it’ll work.”

Not all, however, were convinced. The fact that Ruia College has been, recently, plagued by financial problems, with rumours that Professors’ salaries are being denied floating around, many questioned the college’s role in this innovative, and costly undertaking. While admitting that the upgrade sounds “extremely fancy and amazing”, a student, who requested anonymity, questioned the deployment and sustenance of the facilities used, and also raised fears about their use over a longer period of time. “What we normally see is that there is often an utter chaos and stations are a mess,” he pointed out. And what about the market surrounding the station? “For the residents here, it is a vital part of their lives,” said Aseema Karandikar, who herself is a resident of the Hindu Colony in Matunga. “And anyway, Matunga is more of a residential area than an educational hub, so I don’t know what they are talking about when they say that they want to convert it into a university township,” she further added.

Since the ‘world-class station’, if and when it happens, would also end up displacing those who have their bread and butter dependent on the market, I ventured to ask the vegetable-sellers and shopkeepers around what they thought about it. “If I get to keep my place, then its good,” said Ashwin, who sells vegetables from the morning till late afternoon in the market. Most others held the same belief. Dhanraj, another vendor, asked me what they plan to do about their employment if this project gets going. What, indeed?

Attempts to ask questions about the initiative to the professors failed, mostly because they weren’t encouraged to answer these questions. It is common knowledge now that the administration of Ruia College is struggling with finances, with students being denied even a measly amount required to start a college print magazine; in such circumstances, what kind of a message is the administration trying to send to the students by backing such projects? Instead of ‘developing’ a station which seems to be doing well enough for itself, why not develop the cultural atmosphere the college is famed for? Most importantly, were students’ opinions considered regarding the project, considering it has been undertaken with their convenience in mind?

There is no denying that, at the outset, the project seems well-intentioned, but it has these and several other questions to answer if it is to be taken care of earnestly.

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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.

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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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