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Why I Think Nehru Was The Best Choice For India’s First Prime Minister

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In this era when the Congress is hated (justifiably so, in my opinion) and there is mostly a pro-right wing atmosphere, people have started to believe things they see online – which are by no means unbiased – and we have started hating our first (and according to me, our best) Prime Minister.

Pandit Nehru, in recent years, has undergone a tremendous amount of criticism. It is mandatory to face criticism if you’re a politician, but the criticism of Nehru borders on hatred. He lost the love which Indians had for him. At the time when he was alive, he was probably the most loved man in India after Gandhi. The defamation started after his death.

There are multiple reasons for the downfall of Panditji’s popularity. He was never really fond of the RSS and the organisation was banned after Gandhi’s assassination – just for a little more than one year though.

In the previous decades, people in India have taken a more favourable view of right wing ideology, which explains few things.

Secondly, the failure of the Indian National Congress (INC) post-Indira Gandhi has created a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction in the minds of citizens. The Congress of Nehru and the Congress of Rahul Gandhi are poles apart. People generally confuse the two, which is another reason for Nehru’s deteriorating image among the general public.

These are the main reasons, although there may be many other perspectives too. The question I want to ask today is – if not Nehru, then who?

Who was capable of leading a nation with such a vast population? A nation which was probably facing the world’s largest human migration, a nation whose economy was going nowhere. A nation where communal riots were common, one with a nominal literacy rate – all in all, a nation with all kinds of problems.

As far as I’m concerned, Jawaharlal Nehru was the wisest person who could have led India as he was arguably the most moderate man, respecting all cultures and beliefs. He held tremendous amount of international respect due to his idea of foreign policy, because of his many visits to the European and Soviet countries, and his relations with the diplomats there.

His view of building educational institutions, (IITs and IIMs), realising their importance in the coming future, must not be forgotten. Nor his role in the formation of the constitution for that matter. He involved people from various ideologies in his cabinet, and took forward the idea of ‘non-violence’.

He, along with Vallabhbhai Patel, helped in keeping Kashmir intact. He had his way of dealing with criticism from the opposition – just read the exchange of letters between JP Narayan and Nehru. His idea of a nation like India was splendid. I cannot see any other politician equaling the heights of Nehru’s achievement.

One might argue that Patel was a better choice. He had his own disputes within the Congress party.

I have seen some people claiming that Gowalkar should have been the PM. I’m afraid our national flag then, would have been saffron-coloured. His rally at Shivaji Park, Bombay was attended by about one lakh people. The speeches were filled with radicalism with the touch of RSS in it. Whereas Nehru’s rally just next week was attended by more than six lakh people. This clearly suggests that Nehru was winning this battle of popularity.

For the horrific communal violence of 1946 and 1947 bore witness to the need for a strong centre. In the words of Kazi Syed Karimuddin, “Everybody is not Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,” in respect to his commitment to inter-religious harmony. “What we want to-day is a stable Government. What we want today is a patriotic Government. What we want to-day is a strong Government; an impartial and unbending executive, that does not bow before popular whims. To-day there are weak and vacillating executives in all Provinces who are amenable to influence of the members of the Party and it is impossible for them to displease if they want to continue in the seats that they occupy.”

Also, we cannot forget the time Nehru spent in jail which resulted in great literary pieces.

Of course, mistakes were made by Nehru, especially during the 1962 China war. Nehru thought of the Chinese government as our well-wishers due to his slight inclination towards left ideology. But as the head of the country, everyone is bound to make certain mistakes.

I thought of writing this article due to the comments I get to read on social media. People might not be harbouring a negative view of Nehru in the future and as mentioned earlier, social media sometimes shows the false side. Regardless, there will always be people who know and realise the contribution Pandit Nehru made towards building our nation.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.

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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.

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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