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After The Failure In Bihar, 4 Issues That Will ‘Haunt’ BJP During Assam Elections

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By Nidhi Nagpal

modi tarun gogoiAfter BJP’s major debacle in Bihar, Congress is leaving no stone unturned to cling tightly to its seat in Assam where Assembly Elections are scheduled for early 2016. As a smart move, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi recently asked state BJP president and Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Welfare, Sarbananda Sonowal, to come out with a white paper showing what the central government led by BJP had done for Assam during its one and a half year tenure.

Whitesheet: Gogoi’s Googly For BJP

The North East already breathes under the pressure of alienation and neglect by the rest of country. To add to their troubles is a feeling that the Centre’s discriminatory policies are hampering their growth. In such a scenario, a fact sheet of the progressive initiatives undertaken by the BJP government since 2014 can somehow manage to bring the ball in BJP’s court. But the big question is, has the Central government done enough for Assam or did it resort to lopsided planning and policies keeping Assam’s development at stake? Here are some of the issues that will haunt BJP if it thinks of producing its factsheet or even when it tries to garner votes in Assam.

Removal Of Special Category Status For Assam

The 14th Finance Commission came as a blow to the Northeastern states as the Union Government removed the Special Category Status Provision, which was allotted to 11 states of the country (including 8 states of the North East). Under this, the special category states received Normal Central Assistance split into 90% grants and 10% loans by the central government. While for other states the funding pattern is 30% grants and 70% loans. As a compensatory measure, the devolution of central taxes has increased from 32% to 42%, but a lack of adequate market or any major industry will make it a mammoth task to repay 70% loan to the centre.

Step-Motherly Treatment During Floods

North East has always been a victim of the Centre’s “flood politics”. On one hand, Chennai instantaneously received Rs 940 crore flood relief assistance from the centre whereas, on the other hand, Assam still toils to receive Rs 387.2 crores sanctioned for rehabilitation of 2014 floods under National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). The saga for flood relief still continues as it is deprived of funds to deal with the havoc created by floods in 2015, despite Tarun Gogoi writing letters to Modi asking for more funds. The central government has only granted the 1st instalment of State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) 2015 i.e. 207 crores and 414 crores is still pending with the centre. The centre has not done any extraordinary deal by offering SDRF to Assam as it is available to every state too. With non-existent media coverage of Assam floods and no special funds granted under NDRF, the inequity towards not so- developed cities is quite apparent.

Abrupt Suspension Of The North East Industrial And Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP)

It seems that centre is on the path of rectifying its arbitrary and wrong moves as the elections are on the brink. On December 1 2014, the centre had suspended registration of new industrial units under North East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy (NEIIPP). The policy was aimed at making the region competitive with the rest of the country by granting the industrial units 100% income tax exemption and excise duty exemptions and numerous other benefits. After a yearlong lull, the government has finally revoked the suspension but much harm had been caused since then. The prospective investors refrain from investing in North East owing to its unstable Industrial policies which is primarily the reason North East has not been able to grab any major investment under ‘Make In India’.

If BJP does not rise above its quite visible discriminatory policies, breaking the incumbency would be an ordeal. Immediately after the Bihar loss, Kiren Rijiju, Minister of Home for State forwarded a proposal to PM for granting ST status to six communities of Assam. But will this proposal be genuinely acknowledged or will it just be BJP’S election agenda? Only time can tell the fate of BJP in Assam.

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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, 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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