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Corruption Compelled My Brother To Choose Between Life And Death

There are twists and turns in everyone’s life, but there a few moments that turn our whole life upside down. Life-changing moments, they say, strike us when we are the most vulnerable, suck the air out of our lungs and leave us stunned and gasping for breath. There is one such moment in my life that’s branded on my soul for eternity. It has left me with the fear that I might never dream again. It has left so many questions in my mind that I am now desperately searching for answers and what better place to seek clarity than in the land where ‘Truth Alone Triumphs’?

We are proud citizens of the country where the late Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam prodded young minds when he said: “Dream is not the thing you see in sleep but is that thing that doesn’t let you sleep.” My elder brother, V. Iniyan, had one such dream. He wanted to become an aviator since he was just ten-years-old. He was every parent’s dream and a friend everyone wished they had. He was called ‘the genius’ in school, ‘the know-it-all’ at work, ‘Mr. Responsible’ in the society. He was a rare combination of morals, knowledge and skill. As I grew older, he was the one I looked up to. He was my role model.

At 23, he was chasing after his dreams like a true follower of Dr Kalam would. He completed his training with flying colours. The journey was not an easy one, but being the brave soul that he was, he endured it all and emerged as one of the best pilots in his batch. But what came next pushed him beyond the point of no return. When it came to making a career, he experienced first-hand how money outweighs not only skill but just about anything in this society. He got a very rude awakening from his 13 year-long dream and realised that there was no point in waking up and opted to put himself to sleep.

He ended his life because he couldn’t furnish the ₹50 lakh demanded from in exchange for a job. It was not just a job to him, it was his dream, which came with a hefty price tag. Had he asked our parents, they would have arranged for the money with some struggle. But he didn’t ask for it, or as some would say, was very proud of his morals to do such a thing. He battled with this for over a year and never once asked our parents for money. He fought his battles alone. But even the greatest of warriors cannot keep fighting forever. The thought of assigning a monetary value to his dream, paying a huge price for something he knew he deserved, something he believed for years was within his reach, completely and utterly shattered him.

People call my brother a coward for ending his life, and several other synonymous terms. You might too, and I don’t blame you for that. That is just how most people react to news that does not concern them, news about a stranger. But I request you, please don’t jump to conclusions just yet. Trust me when I say my brother was braver than most people. Lots of other people might have been too until they reached their breaking point.

“Aim for the sky” is what we hear growing up. It instils a confidence in us, it tells us that our thoughts can be put to actions when we invest time and channel our energies towards it. But what happens when that confidence is shattered? We are all strong. But are we strong enough to have a brave front and watch helplessly as the dream that we nurtured with such care and love get stamped upon by the leather boots of the rich? Has our country become so cheap that its children’s dreams are being priced?

Our society is blinded by money and cannot see the thousands of innocent dreams it is crushing under the weight of its greed. Corruption has become an endless black hole in our country that many have lost the will to fight against it. The critical phases of all our lives are situated past this black hole and unfortunately not everyone has got the wealth to feed this monstrosity and get past it. Is there truly no end for this? Should every child be taught to dream within boundaries because not everyone is rich enough to aim for the sky?

I want to seek meaning for my brother’s existence, but not just that. I want people to understand the severity of this issue. Think about your children, your brothers and sisters. Would you want them to face this struggle? To choose between their passion and a life lacking it? I have been asking questions and seeking answers all along, but I have come to realise that asking questions is easy but finding solutions to those questions is much more difficult.

Our motto must be to leave the earth a better place to live in, for our future generations. This not only means the physical environment but our culture as well. Starting today, let us pledge against corruption. Let our pledge become the light that chases away the darkness that has surrounded us all these years. This light will be a ray of hope for our children to dream with confidence.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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