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Drugs And Farmer Suicides Have Been The Badal Govt’s Gift To Punjab. But Does The PM Care?

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By Sadhavi Khosla:

Dear Prime Minister Modi Ji,

To begin with, even though it might seem to be a little late, but I really want to congratulate you in realising a politician’s biggest dream of becoming the Prime Minister of India.

The year 2014 brought with it a ray of hope to the saddened land of India, when the people reposed their faith in you and came together to elect you for one of the highest offices of the country with an unwavering majority.

Over the years, the citizens of the country became accustomed to the fact that governments make promises that they hardly fulfill. But in your case, Sir, I thought it to be an exception.

We believed in your words, and we did not deter to support you.

But, a look at the present day makes me feel that once again we committed a mistake in making the most important decision for the nation, and even though it is not a new phenomenon, it hurts more than ever before.

What is the reason behind this regret, you may ask?

This repentance is because the lives in a highly significant state of the country – Punjab, are imperiled.

Time and again, it has been said that you are unlike your immediate predecessor. You are not a mute spectator, you love to voice your opinion, which is something that we all have experienced oft times, especially with your greatly sought-after audio telecast – PM’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on All India Radio.

punjab drugs
Image source: WordPress

This program is nothing less than an inspirational broadcast of your emotions for the citizens of the country, and just like many others, I too believed your words when you spoke about my birthplace Punjab in the last episode of the year 2014, aired on 14th December.

You clearly understood how drugs have been ruining a whole generation in one of the richest Indian states and termed the situation as a malaise-filled of 3Ds – darkness, destruction and devastation.

You spoke about the state’s unending struggles with drugs and how the country’s youngsters are falling into the trap of narcotics. You urged the youth to focus on their career and come out of this malicious ruse of reprobates. You gave some enriching lessons to the youth through this broadcast and also insisted parents to save their children.

But, have you forgotten that you also promised to save them? Did you fulfill the promises so made?

You asked us to promote the scenario of the state with ‘Drug-Free India’ campaign that was meant to be encouraged on social media along with a hashtag. But, do you really think just with a hashtag the state, or rather the entire country, will get rid of the evil called drugs?

What about the actions that a responsible government should have taken? How are the members of the ruling class in the state fulfilling their duties?

With all due respect Modi Ji I want to know: what has been the cause of your silence when it comes to the present day situation in Punjab. Your spoken words seem meaningless when I look at the devastating state that once was the pride of the nation.

Is this because the BJP government is in alliance along with the SAD?

As per the latest report by the Narcotics Control Bureau, Punjab alone has registered 50 percent of the total drug-related cases in India. However, the Akali Dal Government which is led by the Badal family is as ignorant of the situation as one can ever be.

There are various reasons for this ineptitude on the part of the Punjab Government. Even when there are claims of some ministers/politicians of SAD-BJP being involved in drug trafficking, no serious action has been taken by the Government.

Image source: Google+
Image source: Google+

What is the reason that the BJP has closed its eyes to the Punjab turmoil, is it because it does not want to spoil the relations with the dominant Badal family?

An important point to note here is that you have been a critic of dynastic politics all your life. As a matter of fact, you have also said that you gave up family life for public service and have often been a knocker of the Congress leaders for not looking beyond the Congress’ first family – the Gandhi’s. Please note that we have a bigger example of dynasty politics in Punjab.

What comes as a surprise to me is that how convenient is it for you and for your government to opportunely look the other way when it comes to the SAD.

You are fearless with your rants about the wrongdoings of the opposition parties, but why don’t you portray the same eloquence when it comes to your own ministers, coalitions, and party members?

And, why does everything become fair and legitimate for your alliance partners?

In March this year, Parkash Singh Badal was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan. What has astonished me is not the partisanship of BJP towards Badal, but conferring the second highest civilian honour to him – which is clearly understating the value of these Indian awards, merely to please a political outfit.

Later, on October 11, 2015, you called Parkash Singh Badal India’s Nelson Mandela. I believe that this comparison of Badal with the legend Nelson Mandela is not only a defamation of the icon, but also a libel on Mandela’s contribution towards humanity because Mr. Badal has failed as a leader by pushing Punjab into the darkness.

Sadly, under his rule, the state has seen the worst breakdown in the Indian history, and you call him the Nelson Mandela of India?

The education and health systems in the state are an utter mess. The Punjabi youth, which was once at the forefront of police and armed forces of the nation is nowhere close to the past figures. Punjabis, who were once famous for their hard work, bravery, honesty, and enterprising approach towards life, are now losing these qualities, thanks to drugs. All this has happened under the governance of the Chief Minister.

Please note that the ruling coalition in Punjab has not only been unsuccessful in taking the state out of the treacherous sands of corruption, drug menace and disastrous supremacy, but is also the perpetrator of these perils. The Government has failed in fulfilling the promises made about the development of roads, housing, schools and hospitals in the state, and has even worsened the situation with its lack of ownership and accountability to resolve issues. The increasing grip of the Badal family over the political as well as religious affairs of the Sikhs has proven to be counter-productive in the recent unrest in the state due to incidents of desecration.

Punjab has seen a lot over the years. Partition, Khalistan, Operation Blue Star, communal riots, Black Thunder, terrorism and the failure of the ruling government to provide employment opportunities to the youth, accompanied by the easy access to drugs – all this has made Punjab one of the most vulnerable states in the nation at present.

Unfortunately, the SAD-BJP government has been unable to see all this. SAD-BJP have been incapable of feeling the pain of all those mothers who once lost their sons and spouses to terrorism, and now are losing them to drugs.

Decades ago, the state was known to be the richest state of the country. However, a close look at the issues of the state reveals a different picture now. Over the past era, Punjab’s economy has decelerated like never before, and the state lags far behind its counterparts in terms of industrial growth, thanks to the mighty ‘Badals’ who are not letting industries settle in the state, possibly because they want their private initiatives to grow further and want to rule as a monopoly.

There are no jobs in the state and farmers are dying. The state which was once famous for agriculture is now burning the ashes of the farmers.

Modi ji, do you even know that over 85% of farmers in Punjab are lurching under heavy debts, and there is no other way left for them than putting an end to their lives?

Why is it so difficult for BJP-SAD government to understand that being a bordered state, Punjab has always been exposed to Pakistan’s drug trade’s evil drives?

The Pakistan drug traders are leaving no stone unturned to ruin India’s spirit by weakening the courageous Punjabis through drug supply. While Punjab’s growing problems should have been the most important thing in the agenda of the government at the Centre, it has, unfortunately, not been the case in reality.

I would like to ask our respected Prime Minister: Do you even realize the repercussions of your Government’s nonchalance?

I have been an ardent supporter of the BJP from the time I understood what politics actually is. I have campaigned for you for years and took a sabbatical from work as well to give my unconditional support to the party that was an exemplar for me and many others.

But, today when I see the plight of my beloved state, the place where I took birth and spent many memorable years of my life, I am forced to hang my head in shame as I observe a series of incidents and attacks that have shattered every bit of my homeland.

My recent visit to Amritsar, the holy city, left me in tears, shock, disbelief and distress after having witnessed the entire situation with my eyes. I came across a sight which I will never forget in my life – the agony and pain of all those mothers who had lost, or who are going to lose their children because of drugs, wrenched my heart.

Being a mother myself, I could imagine the pain of a mother, who raised her son with lots of efforts, hopes and desires, and then loses him to appalling drugs.

Trust me; there is no more pain in the world than what these mothers had to bear when they see their children dying a slow death every single day.

My soul shakes when I see my state crying and the party that I supported for so long, doing nothing in return for the dire straits of the land!

I have written numerous emails to your office and party functionaries and I have sent many tweets to you on Punjab, but I failed to get any response from you or your office.

I failed to get an answer about why my homeland has been a victim of bigotry.

Why is it not as important as Delhi, Maharashtra, or Gujarat for the aristocrats of India?

Are the people who are living in Punjab not as human as the ones living in the metropolitans of this country?

It is very sad to see that your and your party’s focus is only on winning elections in every state, and the spirit is limited to that. Your focus is more on world affairs when your native land is in a miserable shape.

Dear Modi Ji, please understand that the citizens of the nation want you to do more than addressing rallies and doing fancy talks. The mandate given to you and your government is for bringing a change and helping us witness a progressive India – free from any malice.

We all have had very high expectations from you and your government, but so far we haven’t moved even an inch closer to that.

Every day, the newspapers are filled with articles on the economy being in a distress situation, the deteriorating situation of the job market and the mounting rate of price rise.

To top it all, some of the fringe elements of your government continue to spark anger through their highly provocative communal statements, which has not helped in India’s progress but worsening it further.

I ask you Modi Ji – don’t you feel sad looking at the wretched situation of Punjab? Doesn’t your heart shake whenever you hear another incident taking place on the land which is one of the holiest places of the country? Don’t you think that it is the duty of the Central and the State Government to unequivocally condemn all such instances which crumble this state, and the nation as a whole?

The tall story you made on the Mann Ki Baat episode of 14th December 2015, made me send you this appeal for your honest intervention in Punjab’s state of affairs.

It’s about time you stopped the rot. We, the people of India, look up to you to take the steps that you once promised.

I request you to actually establish the India, which makes us feel proud of our nation, instead of feeling ill at ease.

I request you to act now and prevent Punjab from going to wrack and ruin.

I request you to not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.

We Punjabis will always remain grateful to you- if you will come forward to save our Punjab.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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