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Why Is There A Lack Of Constructive Criticism In The Parliament On Demonetisation?

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November 8, 2016, will go down in India’s history as a day when a tremendous change happened, that aimed at changing India from a cash-based economy to taking a step towards moving to a digitised, and much more transparent mode of transaction.

How the decision was kept a secret and the sheer will of the government to try and tackle the growing problem of corruption is something that initially had an overwhelming response, only to be met with the disappointment due to inapt implementation and the chaos of people queuing up in lines and finding no cash in banks.

This is what we all know and have discussed a fair bit with our families in our drawing rooms, criticising the government all we like and probably even agreeing that this might end up severely impacting India’s GDP. Amidst this, we’ve all forgotten to look at the bigger picture – every action has a counter-action, and every failure is a step towards success. If demonetisation fails to tackle the problem of black money, where is our economy headed next?

It is fair to criticise the government in power, after all, it is accountable for this major shake-up in our country, where a large part of the population receives their daily wages in cash – and no, not every cash transaction is in black.

The real area of concern is what we’re selling in our country, in the name of ‘democracy’. The pillars of democracy help one exercise their right to speech, freedom and liberty. We’re a country rich in our use of rights, and our Constitution helps us become a sovereign nation. These principles laid the foundation for our Parliament – the current running of which, I’m sorry to say – is undemocratic and lacks respect towards the people who elected these MPs; we did not choose MPs so that they could be absent on crucial days, we didn’t choose them so that they could throw papers at the speaker, we didn’t choose them so that they could waste crores and crores of tax payers’ money in a political blame-game. If the country has one issue at hand, it is no excuse to not work on the other issues – it’s just plain and simply child-like and doesn’t go with the ethos and principles with which our country had tasted freedom “at the stroke of the midnight hour.”

I’m not a party-aligned man, whichever party does well deserves credit. As much as the opposition has been at fault, perhaps the centre has also stepped back from maintaining cordial ties and breaking the ice to help the Parliament function. The battle of egos only hurts the nation in the long run.

The laws in the Parliament of India need to be changed, and that needs to happen now, or it’s not going to happen ever. Whether it is chanting slogans next to the chair of the speaker, or coming to this pious place drunk, disrespecting the process of functioning through chants and slogans – the MPs should be banned for such behaviour. In places of education and work such behaviour accounts for punishment – how is it that our politicians are allowed to get away with such behaviour?

That was about the functioning of the Parliament. Let us get back to the issue of demonetisation and crack a few basic points.

It is quite rare in our country that an ex-PM speaks on a current issue and that too in the Parliament. Chances are that people will listen to someone as distinguished a scholar as Dr Manmohan Singh, whose opinions have great weight in society.

It will be fair to say that he’s one of the best economists we’ve ever had. Having said that, as much as I appreciate Dr Singh’s views on demonetisation, it’ll perhaps be a better way for both Congress and the BJP to discuss the issue in the Parliament and if the impeccable genius of Dr Singh can be utilised by both parties to see how the implementation of the demonetisation announcement can be made better, it’ll only help the country.

One thing upon which there’s a clear agreement is the fact that we have the problem of black money biting into our economy and getting rid of it is the need of the hour.

Seeing the current situation, where exactly are the current regulations going wrong in tackling the issue of black money – and how can it be tackled better? The sad reality is; while the political blame game is at its peak – none of the major political parties are willing to give constructive criticism of the policy.

We all are aware of the long lines outside ATMs, the troubles of the unorganised sector, the lack of infrastructure to process digitised transactions in rural areas – and all this criticism is valid, but that doesn’t mean that the whole policy and its intention can be questioned. I believe that is unfair.

What is your take on this? Do you agree that the Parliament as an institution of political reforms in this country deserves to undergo through certain strict measures to lay down an apt example of ‘democratic functioning’? What should be done next if black money is a problem and the centre takes steps to solve it, and it doesn’t succeed?

We surely can’t become an economy which is ‘okay’ with unaccounted income running parallel to accounted income. We can’t be a country that promotes the use of black money over digitised transactions. Where is the constructive criticism that can be used to battle this problem?

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Image source: Hindustan Times/Getty Images
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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.

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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