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Fanaticism, Inequality, Caste Hierarchy And Just Another Republic Day

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Sixty eight years ago, we chose to be a republic on 26th of January 1950. As Rajpath prepares itself for another flag hoisting on this republic day, we need to ask several questions: What is a republic? Whose republic? What does it mean to poor?

After sixty-eight years of a government of the people, for the people, by the people, where do we stand? Is it just another such day of the year, where we are forced to imbibe patriotism and love for a nation?

Even though India has the world’s largest young workforce with average age to be around 29 years by 2020, it is still ironic that most of these youngsters flee their nation for better opportunities abroad.

A growing population, an incentive to reservations and better living standards makes it necessary for the same.

India attained independence from the clutches of the British Empire in 1947. And this newborn nation had to face certain challenges.

The problem of religious fanaticism, caste hierarchy, the rich-poor divide pose a large threat to India’s unity.

The newborn nation had to make a new constitution, which accommodated all kinds of people, upheld the idea of democracy and asserted its own sovereignty.

Many people throughout the world questioned the existence of India. One American journalists wrote in 1951, “India means only two things to us – famines and Nehru.” But, today it seems to me that India has succeeded at accommodating all the differences.

However, there are many problems that have prevailed in India over the years. Since independence, poverty has remained our ‘UNWANTED’ guest, which has taken different shapes over the years. And this can be associated with Bollywood movie, ‘Athiti tum kab jaoge’ (Dear Guest, When Will You Leave?).

In fact, every fourth person in India is poor; this roughly accounts for about 275 million people. Many villages are not linked to the principal towns with good pakka (concrete/tar) roads.

The village population is still afflicted with open defecation. Many of these villages do not have the basic facilities like electricity, felicitous drainage system, clean drinking water, a hospital, and a primary school.

True, India has made efforts to move forward from where we stood in 1947. But there are many areas that just remain the way they are. According to UN, India has the largest malnourished population in the world, which accounts for about 194.6 million undernourished people.

With the literacy rate over 74 percent according to 2011 census, we still have a long way to move forward. About 280 million Indians are illiterate, this is nearly equal to Indonesia’s population, which has 96 percent literacy rate.

Our education system itself needs revival. From the teaching of history from colonial perspective to telling the story of India, from conceptual teaching to application level, from blackboards to smart boards, there is a lot that needs to be changed.

Indians are trained to be good employees. We study all our lives to be employed by some lucrative corporate company that pays well. And here is why we have a large chunk of unemployed youth. ‘Beta, you should do Engineering degree or become a doctor. Otherwise, nobody gives you dowry’. This phrase has piloted overcrowding in areas that have limited opportunities.

What are you good at? Well! I don’t know. No matter what we study and how much we study, most of us end up with doing nothing. Our education system fails to provide vocational training.

Our education system teaches a fish how to fly. Albert Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if we judge a fish by its ability to fly, it will leave its whole life believing it is incapable of doing anything”.

Today, our educations system prepares us to be what the society wants us to be, rather than what we are capable of. Every other parent wants their children to be modern day engineers and doctors.

Many children who are not good at science and math believe that they are stupid and useless. Our education system needs to be revived. We need the world to allow everyone to pursue their interests; allow them to make their own choices.

India is the land of villages. There are as many as six lakh villages in India which account for about 70 percent of our population.

Most of the villagers are illiterate and inclined towards traditional farming. Over 600 million people in India depend on agriculture for a living.

Most of these farmers depend on rainfall for irrigation. When harvests are poor, fewer food grains will be available in the market. A mismatch between demand for food and the supply of food grains drives up the cost of food this is called food inflation.

When farmers harvest few crops, they earn less money. As a result, they buy fewer things – fewer tractors, fewer motorcycles, fewer televisions and even fewer clothes and snacks. Low demand affects the business and profitability of companies that manufacture these goods.

The country has almost been desensitised to news of farmer deaths. With severe drought, the farmers do not have enough water to drink, let alone to grow crops with.

What does republic mean to them? How does it matter if it is republic or freedom to those who are struggling to earn two square meals? Republic is just another day of the year until the poor are uplifted, educated and employed.

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  1. Adarsh Badri

    Please correct the first line from Red Fort to Rajpath.

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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 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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