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A Farmer On Why Modi’s ‘Achhe Din’ Hasn’t Arrived For Him In 4 Years

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As a farmer in Maharashtra, I know that when PM Modi was elected in 2014, he received huge support from the farming community. Most of us fell for the development agenda Modi reiterated throughout his campaign and his promises for the upliftment of farmers.

I was one of those young-generation farmers who were hugely influenced by Modi’s eloquence and promises for a better Bharat. However, as a farmer, the last 3-4 years have been a very tough ride. Modi’s speeches still continue to be as eloquent as ever, but the situation of farmers has worsened more than ever. The time has arrived that we mull over the reasons we supported Modi in 2014 – and the ground reality of his promises four years down the line.

Despite the favorable weather over the last few years, farmers are struggling for livelihood. The farmers, whom Modi promised to support, are under major threat from reduced incomes. With the falling prices of farm produce and mounting debts, farmers are suffering terribly and there seems to be no hope for things to improve in the near future. The government’s actions have betrayed farming families (like mine). In fact, we are very scared about our financial condition.

On one hand, we talk about India being one of the fastest-growing markets for businesses around the world. On the other, our own farmers (who still constitute above 60% of India’s population) lack an access to fair markets and prices.

Almost every crop we grow costs more to produce than what we sell it for. During the last four years, my family’s farm in west Maharashtra managed multiple harvests of grapes, pomegranates, tomatoes and grains. Unfortunately, every single harvest/crop consistently failed to reaching a break-even point. The situation is the same everywhere – input prices have gone up steadily, but the prices that farmers receive have gone down drastically. This has only piled up the debts for the farmers.

With the sharp dip in farm income and the dearth of basic infrastructure, all odds seem to stacked against the producers. In regard to the electricity supply in rural areas, it would seem that we are still as backward as we can get. In the region where I farm, in a day, we receive electricity for less than 10 hours, that too with many disruptions. Farm insurance and/or farm assistance policies are either lacking, or the ones in place only help the companies, lenders and bureaucrats (via corruption).

The strain in today’s farm economy is no accident – it’s the result of implementing policies designed to make corporations richer at the expense of farmers. Modi’s campaign may be focusing more on the urban areas. They may believe that the urban voters will take them over the line this time – no matter how much farmers and the rural communities suffer. Even so, I would say they are taking a huge gamble by only appealing to urban voters (via the same ‘development talks’) and neglecting the rural communities, which still make up a significant portion of our voting population.

Prior to an election, one of the cards almost every political party plays nowadays is the “loan waivers” for farmers. Loan waivers do provide relief to a certain extent. However, it has never solved the farming crisis by itself, nor will it ever do so. What will truly help farmers is a strategy to make agriculture a profitable and sustainable venture by taking some sound steps (providing access to fair markets, low-interest agricultural loans, basic infrastructure such as electricity and water supply, and implementation of the sound farm assistance policies). It’s time that parties take some time out of their busy schedules (of playing political games) and do some concrete work that will ensure that farmers get their fair share.

In 2014, Modi’s speeches had given a new hope for farmers. We hoped that Modi would be our champion. He sounded like he would stand by our side against all the odds. We cheered Modi’s promises to support the ‘Make in India’ programme (which would open up markets for local farms), his pledge to electrify every single village and making India corruption free. And most of all, we liked his promises towards helping the kisan and majdoor.

But we have been let down. If the Indian farmer is to survive, they must get their fair share. I don’t know how much time Modi and his government have to reverse the course. I hope they do reverse it – and by doing so, they may seize another opportunity. But if they won’t fight for us, we farmers will bring the fight to them.

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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.

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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)’.

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.

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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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