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Govt. Can’t Do It All: Why I Think We Need Collective Leadership From The People Of India

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By Ningreikhan Wungkhai:

Soldiers repair Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal after it was damaged by heavy rains in Kurukshetra in the northern Indian state of Haryana July 8, 2010. Monsoon rains in key grain-producing states in northern India have brightened the outlook for rice and cotton although heavy showers have flooded some pockets, officials said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT MILITARY) - RTR2G7XA
Image credit: Reuters/Stringer.

Why were colonial nations so enthusiastic about invading India? The answer is simple. Economy! Economy! And Economy! India being a wealthy country made it attractive to the English to come and lead our economy to disaster.

However, I feel that collective leadership, voluntary initiatives, and individual responsibility towards the country are more important. Poverty in India is not a mathematical error or a lack of natural and human resources. It is neither an acute shortage of machinery nor a political accident. India’s handicapped agriculture/economy and water shortage is arguably a manmade problem. India’s economy and sustainable development in the future depend on the integration of prudent water management and advanced technology. The demands of agriculture and water consumption will increase rapidly with the growing population. Without the citizens playing an active role and efficient management of resources there is not much the country can achieve.

Every person is directly entitled to the country’s economic growth. The government alone cannot battle poverty. I must argue that moral fibre is one thing that no law or politics can substitute. Eradication of corruption is not the only measure for battling poverty, though. Knowing your country better could also help. It is not in my best interest to confuse you. Allow me to make it clear. India as an agrarian nation is home to the wettest place on Earth (Mawsynram, Meghalaya) yet millions of farmers commit suicide every year due to acute water crisis due to the late arrival of monsoons, an unorganised water system that includes irrigation, management of water reservoirs, and lack of advanced technology.

Proper implementation of laws, systematic utilisation of the available resources, awareness, individual responsibility, and high-tech water resource management and rainwater harvesting can elevate India from an impaired ‘agro-economy’, and no Indian farmer will have to die due to a water crisis. Should rain water in Meghalaya be harvested through advanced technical assistance and distributed to neighbouring states, for instance, water shared with Kolkata via Assam, it could promote the north east region apart from making pure water available to a huge number of people outside.

According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN), the total area under cultivation is about 169.7 M ha. One hectare is equal to 10,000 square metres. With a rainfall of one mm, every square metre receives one litre of pure water. The north and western regions of India namely Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Saurashtra and Kachchh recorded around 600 mm of rainfall annually and western Rajasthan recorded an average of 313 mm rainfall. But the average annual rainfall in Mawsynram is 11,873 mm (467 inches). The second rainiest place is Cherrapunji, also in Meghalaya, with an average annual rainfall of 11,430 mm (450 inches) per year. Instead of investing billions on infinite redundancies, why not built a strong infrastructure of waterways and connect them state to state. We have the resources but we seem to be extremely poor in management.

According to the latest report of the Delhi office of the international NGO Water Aid, 13% of Delhi’s citizens are short of water for everyday use. In Madhya Pradesh, 40% of households did not even get 40 litres per head in a day.

“India has a large untapped reservoir. It can make a major contribution to the world food crisis,” said M. S. Swaminathan.

How Participatory Budgeting Can Augment India’s Economy

India’s economic growth can be swiftly augmented by upholding the concept of participatory budgeting (PB), which is, in fact, a great way to educate people how important these initiatives are for the entire country to collectively battle widespread poverty and agricultural problems. People can participate in the process of decision making in the allocation of municipal budgets/public spending. When PB is meaningfully implemented, it could also help prevent tax evasion. In a centralised democracy, it is the people who actually run the society and its welfare.

Every railway station premises and public transport premises in India is home to beggars. One possible measure to rehabilitate these beggars and to promote ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission to the fullest is to employ the multitude of beggars to maintain the hygienic surroundings both inside and outside the premises. This could be one way India can reduce poverty, crime, and trafficking besides maintaining cleanliness.

Save Our Poor Farmers: The Backbone Of My Country’s Economy

It’s been 68 years since Independence and India’s economy, agrarian by nature, still suffers. Heaven will not fall from the sky and transform India. Why should the Indian farmer have to commit suicide due to a water crisis when India is home to the world’s wettest place? Rainwater is the purest form of water. Wouldn’t we do well to invest in infrastructure (construction of systematic waterways/reservoirs/hydroelectric plants) to sustain growing demands.

In the recent union budget, Rs. 6,000 crores have been allocated for replenishing ground water; Rs. 20,000 crores have been allocated for the welfare of farmers under the ambit of NABARD; 28.5 lakh hectares are to be brought under irrigation under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sanchai Yojana; Rs. 30,000 crores for long-term rural credit fund and short term Regional Rural Bank Refinance Fund; Rs. 45000 crores have been allocated for short-term co-operative rural credit refinance fund; Rs. 4173 crores for the ‘Namami Gange‘ project.

To support soil and water conservation, a total amount of Rs. 707 crores had been allocated in the previous union budget. Rs. 245 crores and Rs. 100 crores have been allocated for an interlinked river system and flood control respectively.

The greater concern, however, is the lack of individual responsibility towards social welfare and the failure of collective leadership. Do not be startled if I say that it is through individual initiative/responsibility and voluntary social work that we can transform India into a vibrant nation. The responsibility to battle poverty must be shouldered by every Indian citizen. We are responsible for our country’s economy. Government is just a vehicle to assist and support us in executing our duties. If we still continue to blame the government for every crisis but fail to perform our duty towards the society/country, poverty will forever torment us.

For example, the northeastern states are not economically prosperous and a poor state like Manipur, whose economy almost entirely relies on agriculture, drought/scarcity of water is a colossal challenge before the natives. Being born and brought in Manipur, no person in my district has ever succumbed to hunger nor have I heard of such cases from neighbouring districts. This district receives no irrigation assistance from the state government and most farmers do not have access to water pumps. However, no person commits suicide due to lack of water or succumbs to hunger. The natives, by coming together, constructed small, but several, canals that substitute for water reservoirs for farmlands. It’s impossible to construct a route for a bulldozer in the woods. But through collective leadership, individual responsibility, social work, and an instinct for survival, these poor neglected farmers came together and successfully managed water and harvest their crops that sustain them throughout the year.

As of now, India is home to 12 crore farmers with no adequate assistance to successfully battle calamities and cover the losses. The current government under the verdant vision of PM Narendra Modi has implemented the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana to replace two existing schemes, the NAIS (National Agricultural Insurance Scheme and MNAIS (Modified NAIS) in order to give respite to affected farmers.

Let’s make every Indian a concerned citizen, a medium of awareness, and a responsible individual. Very soon India will lead a strong economy at the global level. Instead of talking about ‘money spent’ on sewage treatment, desalinisation, awareness campaigns, why don’t we act responsibly and maintain our own household’s drainage efficiently and promote proper disposition of domestic waste. The money saved can be used to increase public spending and improve facilities and infrastructure.

No amount of schemes can elevate the poor farmers from the sorry state of affairs. Strengthening of mechanisms, expert management, and individual responsibility will elevate India’s economy.

“The greatest secret of an economy, after all, lies in the giving of man to the other who is in need.”

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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
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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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