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Suicide In Pursuit Of A Passbook

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By Rahul M:

Kodanda Ramireddy was no ordinary farmer. At 26, he had an MBA degree and wanted to change the farming techniques and methods used in his village.

His family jointly owned around 20 acres in Rayampalli village in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district. They had taken several loans – an agricultural loan, an educational loan from a bank and other loans from private moneylenders.

His parents had mortgaged the family’s land, and Ramireddy was in the process of retrieving it from the private moneylenders. He needed to pay off the money his family owed the bank. Only then could he sell two acres of their land and repay those loans owed to moneylenders.

While trying to save his land, there were bank procedures to follow and other loans to be repaid, which he had done. But the pressure exerted by bank officials took a toll. In exasperation and pain, on July 2, 2015, Ramireddy drank poison on the bank’s premises.

“All that the boy wanted was his mother’s passbook (and accompanying land documents). That would have enabled him to sell a part of the land and get it released from mortgage,” a friend of Ramireddy said. “But the bank manager refused to give the passbook to him for two weeks.”

For many days, Ramireddy kept going to Syndicate Bank in Uravakonda town in Anantapur. His daily visits to the bank had made him a familiar face there, and many knew about his problem. All he wanted was the passbook, so that he could get his land back and get started on the natural farming methods he had learnt, without the use of pesticides and fertilisers. He was eager to move ahead.

“The private moneylenders would have grabbed our land in 3-6 months,” Ramireddy’s brother Srinvasareddy said. “We thought we will get the passbook back, sell two acres, and pay the moneylenders.”

So Ramireddy repaid his mother’s bank loan on June 19 and was hoping to get his documents back to move ahead with the procedures. The bank branch, known for its toughness in extracting outstandings, wouldn’t let go of the passbook till the family repaid another borrowing – an education loan.

“My father gave the surety for the education loan for our sister and he is no more,” Srinvasareddy said. “But the bank can’t deny us the passbook on the grounds that we have not yet paid back the education loan. It was for education. There are at least 50 families with an unpaid education loan in our village, who do have their passbooks.”

Ramireddy went to the bank and kept requesting the manager for the passbook. “Last week, at the bank manager’s urging, the police took Ramireddy to the station. They even beat him up,” Ramireddy’s uncle Nagireddy said. “He had a good education and he had committed no crime. When the police sided with the manager, he was very angry and ashamed.”

But Ramireddy still didn’t lose hope. On the day of his death, he called his uncle around 8.30 a.m. and said: “I have spoken to a minister’s personal assistant. They will give us the documents back, and everything is going to be fine.”

“I never thought for a second that he was going to take his life away,” the young man’s uncle said.

On July 2, Ramireddy went to the bank as usual and once again requested the manager to return his passbook and papers. Yet again, he was turned down. Ramireddy returned to the bank around 1 p.m. with a bottle of monochrotophos (a pesticide). He told the manager that he was going to take his life if he didn’t get the documents back.

“He sat in the waiting area and drank the monochrotophos,” said K. Anand Rao, an Uravakonda-based journalist with the Telugu daily Vaartha. “Although the bank was crowded, people did not notice Ramireddy for at least 20 minutes after he drank the poison. And when they finally took him to the hospital, the doctors couldn’t save his life.”

There was a suicide note in Ramireddy’s pocket. It read: “Shivashankar sir has become a puppet in the hands of political lords and rich lords and he is wilfully agonising me. Syndicate Bank manager is responsible for my death. On Friday evening he made the police beat me up. Yours, Kodanda Ramireddy, a farmer’s son.”

Ramireddy was a hot-headed idealist. He would read something in a newspaper and go in pursuit of it. He was enthusiastic and went to Vishakhapatnam to learn about Palekar’s zero-budget farming. He went to Karnataka to learn about solar electricity.

And his family was supportive of his endeavours. “I was proud of him and we let him take the money to do these things,” Srinvasareddy said, breaking into tears. “Oh my brother! He wanted to better farmers’ lives. Instead he has gone into the soil and will never come back.”

And this is how a young entrepreneur farmer, aspiring big, got caught in financial tangles and gave up. His skills and dreams are forever lost.

Rahul M is an independent journalist based in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.

This article was originally published here

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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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