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No Country For Old People: Why Is Young India Abandoning The Elderly?

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Have you noticed the growth of sky-rocketing walls, embroidered with pointed glass sheets in your neighborhood? Mine is a great reflection of that. Giant barricades are built to limit the trajectory of eyes and limbs of the passersby. Evidently, this fact can be corroborated by using the street view feature of Google Maps. Also, that IGI trademark surveillance camera installed on one of the pillars of the gate. Once, I eyed it for a few minutes, for a while it remained still and then, possibly, annoyed by my staring, it raised an alarm and I had to run with my tail between my legs. Wait, no one can evade the presence of a watchman who is fed with a specific database of humans and is strongly advised to kick the butt of a living organism who doesn’t match the database entries.

Initially, this way of life was exclusive to urban societies, but with the population explosion in urban areas, followed by quantum relocation of urban populace to rural dwellings, the paradigm of social disconnection, alienation, and absence of human connection have travelled to the rural areas.

In Kashmiri architecture is undergoing significant change. The masons working on new houses are directed to construct walls, the bigger the better. House-owners do it to isolate themselves from the surroundings thereby disrupting the whole web of societal connection and contributing towards the creation of artificial human society.

Robert W. Service says: “I have an intense dislike for artificial society. In France, one could lead a free life, do what one wanted to do without interference or criticism from one’s neighbors.”

Playing with a naturally regulated system will have its own ramifications. This isolation from the neighborhood setup has given birth to an entirely new disaster. Meanwhile, in India, the trend of abandoning one’s parents has seen a significant spike. Parents are left out on their own, while their children either get relocated to another country or they totally disown their parents. In most cases, grandparents, no longer competent to earn a livelihood face psychological and financial troubles. They have nobody to look after them and in these circumstances, a complete disconnection from the neighborhood worsens their situation. Instantly, after getting married, the youth of this generation dissociate themselves from their parents, leaving them alone and vulnerable.  

A few months back, in the Nigeen area of Srinagar city, close to the famous Hazratbal shrine, a houseboy recovered a dead body of septuagenarian lady in a lavish mansion. He had gone on a vacation and when he came back to apprise the house-owner about his presence, he found her dead in the living room. Panicked by the untimely death of his employer, he rushed to the neighbors and informed them about the incident. The postmortem examination revealed that she had been dead for several days. That old lady, the mother of two doctors who run their practice in America, embraced a silent death. Had she been in good terms with her neighbors, she could possibly have avoided the tragic death.

Incidents like these should remind our civilised citizens that they need to take care of their parents, or at least build old-age homes for them. According to government reports the number of senior citizens in India is growing and close to 113 million people crossed the age of 60 in 2016. If these reports are any indication, a sizable number of seniors are in the need of old-age homes today.

Mathew Cherian, chief executive of HelpAge India says, “earlier people lived with their children when they were too old to work, but society is no longer parent-oriented and the rising trend we notice is that the elderly are moving out of their homes to places that cater to their needs, but there aren’t enough old-age homes in India to house all the abandoned elderly people.”

The central and state governments together, upon taking notice of this growing issue have launched various schemes to support the senior citizens who are left alone in their retirement days. Schemes like Integrated Programme For Old Person (IPOP) initiated by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment provide basic amenities like shelter, food, medical care and entertainment opportunities is acting as a panacea for the problems faced by the elderlies. The scheme also assists financially, and citizens of Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim and all of North East can increase the aid up to 95%. Also, the initiatives started by Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry Of Finance are lending support to old citizens. Though these schemes are potentially uplifting the morale of senior citizens, this problem can only be solved, if the younger generation is constantly counselled to be with their parents, especially when they need them.

The memory of their parents providing them with decent food even if they had to hungry to be able to afford that, should be enough for those ungrateful youngsters who abandon their parents.

Richard A. Gardner, who wrote a book titled “The Parental Alienation Syndrome” said, “Only terminate your relationship with your parents in the most extreme of circumstances and only then after careful counselling and guidance from a professional.”

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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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