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The Elphinstone Tragedy Will Change Nothing In Mumbai

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The recent tragedy, close to a mass self-inflicted massacre, at the Elphinstone Road station is a live testimony to the chaos our country is. For me to write this article several days after the incident, would be surprising to people used to instant noodles, instant soups and instant news. We have all information at our fingertips, but here’s the thing: each piece of news is banter for an hour, trending for a day and no more than a debate for a week.

The purpose of talking about the Elphinstone Road incident is not to blame anyone. That’s what everyone is doing, so far anyway. People in the crowd blamed the other people in the crowd, the other people in the crowd are blaming the present government mechanism, the present government is putting it on the previous government and the baton is going to and fro between all those involved. Those unconcerned, too, are exercising their revisionist muscles and voicing their opinions. So, I take a dip and attempt to do the same.

I don’t send my opinion from a news anchor’s seat or a politician’s. Either way, I will blame another entity. Moreover, either of those ways are soft and comfortable positions- well seated in air-conditioned rooms. Instead, I speak from a Churchgate bound local train’s second-class compartment, which at the moment is cramped, to say the least. It is 1 p.m. In a circle around me are dozens of men, heading to work or college…we are piled up against each other, which still is nearly five times a better situation than how it would have been, say three hours ago, at 10 am. Definitely cozy, but that’s not really the word for it.

When I will reach my destination, two dozen people will be thrust out by the mutual human force that we shall exert on each other. Simultaneously, people at the platform will try to jump into the trains as soon as it stops.

After the incident on Friday, a great many people came together, proposing a unanimous solution: get the Railway Officers and VVIPs to let go of their privileges and travel in circumstances they themselves, to quite an extent are responsible for. However, dear privilege-bearers, I would not really wish these circumstances to be inflicted on you…quite embarrassing it would be, to stand out on a platform, because you are incompetent!

Not as an official, but as an individual, because here is the problem: Not one individual out of those several people hanging outside, squeezing into a place beyond the footboard (how I don’t know), will acquiesce to give their spot to a VVIP, to a CM or for that matter, any dignitary.

Everyone has their workplace to reach to, and each one has fought hard to find a square inch in the jam-packed local. Survival of the fittest, after all.

Coming back to the subject, what prompted me to write this, was not the incident in itself, but another set of happenings that sort of answer why the incident transpired in the first place.

A Border Security Force pilot has pointed out discrepancies in the safety of air-crafts flying VIPs and MPs. Moreover, maintenance of these air-crafts is not up to the mark and pilots are trainees.

Something more to think about are the two instances when Maharashtra Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis’ helicopter crash-landed in May and July respectively, earlier this year.

These facts bring us to a conclusion.

The government is not apathetic to citizens or citizens safety. It is just plain apathetic to safety in general.

Let me provide another version of this conclusion.

We Indians, are apathetic to safety. Because after all, who cares? The world does not come to a grinding halt when 20 citizens die in a public tragedy. Except for the families, that is. Otherwise, who cares? Television anchors seem to, not because they actually do, but are literate enough to articulate it.

Somewhere to an extent, and how it would appear to an onlooker, even we commuters do not care much about our own safety. A couple of hours after a tragedy that killed dozens, people were hanging out of the locals and shall continue doing so. We continue overcrowding the trains. We continue going to work. We continue paying taxes and we continue hating the government for not using that money wisely.

Having said that, I shall add to point out, where I feel we currently are – in a circle.

Why do we not quit adjusting and overcrowding our trains? Maybe because we have been left no option by the authorities who can do something about it. Why do authorities do nothing about it? Maybe because we are adjusting and overcrowding our trains.

Who is responsible for this stalemate?

If our decision makers would have been efficient and not as obstinate as they are, there would have been no such stalemate. Since they are, to what extent can we, the tax-bearers and problem-bearers, do something? As far as the government is concerned, their apathy for safety, in general, has hurled helicopters, in which they themselves are travelling, to the ground.

It’s like paying a nanny to take care of your children when she is doing a bad job of parenting her own children. You can’t blame her for arrogance when she fails to deliver, but rather for ignorance and indifference.

I alight at Vile Parle station. I see no pushing-pulling happening as such, nevertheless, a man falls while walking out of a compartment. He looks around and shouts at a middle-aged plump man, who he thinks has pushed him. The plump man smiles. We Indians never push anyone. Every time, someone else pushes from behind.


Ignorance or indifference? Do comment what you think about the Elphinstone Road Stampede.

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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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