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Why NSUI’s Manifesto Tries To Steer Clear Of ‘ Nationalism Debates’

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During the Ramjas clashes in February 2017, the National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) condemned the occurrence at their hunger strike by shouting, “Na left ki, na right ki, raah chuno centre ki” (Neither the left, nor right, choose the centre instead). This was followed by Gift-a-Rose campaign where NSUI gave roses to protesters outside Ramjas aiming to bring peace to the turbulent campus. Despite the depleting activism and popularity, the party has invariably secured the second position to Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) at Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) for the last three years.

Last year, it made a comeback in the DUSU central panel with their candidate Mohit Garid securing the post of Joint Secretary, preventing an all-ABVP hat trick. This year, NSUI has started off on the wrong foot with their presidential candidate being disqualified for disciplinary reasons.

What can still save the party is if they convince students to vote for them by the promises they are making. They have released a ‘DigiManifesto‘ which is doing rounds on Whatsapp and other social media sites. The manifesto is pretty refreshing as unlike All India Students’ Association and ABVP they do not bestow too much space to nationalism debates. Only, in a very subtle manner, they have promised not to do things that ABVP is accused of doing; to not moral police women and to ensure that perpetrators of violence are held accountable.

These are a few important points mentioned in the manifesto –

  • As a result of lack of reading resources in Hindi, Hindi-Medium students across the campus struggle to cope with academics. NSUI intends to set up English tutorial classes and bridge/remedial classes. It would have been better had they promised to set up translation centres that would help these students study in the language that they’d like to.

Considering the university’s infrastructural constraints, especially those with the teaching fraternity, this shall be an uphill task, but it is appreciable that the concern has found space at a DUSU manifesto.

  • Forming dedicated forum to discuss pending scholarships of Schedule Castes, Tribes and other minorities.
  • Setting up a counselling centres. Again, considering that they will have to navigate through the University’s red tape and infrastructural constraints, this is ambitious.
  • Curbing moral policing.
  • They shall demand new colleges and mandatory hostels for colleges with more than 2,000 students, also impose rent control for PGs.
  • Promote ‘Participatory Budgeting’ with complete transparency of expenditures, and online records. Every college council would have a say in the budget allocation and expenditure.

Interestingly, NSUI released the incorrect ABVP-led DUSU’s annual expenditure record on their social media handles saying the Union spent 22 lakhs on tea, coffee, etc. ABVP then gave a convincing explanation for it, and much to NSUI’s embarrassment, also emphasised how the budget had Mohit Garid’s signature on it.  

While these make a debut, the claims to oppose privatisation and work out affordable amenities at the campus remains customary. NSUI professes to maintain the educational standards of the reputed Delhi University. Like the previous year, the party shall also be working on concessional buses and metro passes. Instituting mechanisms to check discrimination against Northeast students, and addressing grievances of sports quota students makes it to their manifesto again. What is amiss is last year’s  ‘Earn While You Learn’ wherein NSUI had promised to get the University to “issue guidelines to all the colleges to start providing short-term jobs for their students who are in need of financial aid”.

While AISA and ABVP have been engaging in criticism and counter-criticism, NSUI’s position remains undecided. It’s popular opinion that their inactiveness will have a consequence and will be the reason DUSU-voters do not find in them the ‘centre-alternative’ to the Right and the Left. Their manifesto does seem progressive, and their promises do cater to the common students. But the doubt remains – would their candidates be able to deliver the claims if they couldn’t participate in the numerous debates that took plan on campus last year?  

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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.

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.

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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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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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