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The Empty Promise Of ‘Vikas’ Plagues This Maharashtra Village

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Residents of this village on the foothills of the Satpura range are yet to reap the benefits of Narendra Modi’s much-touted ‘acche din’.

Lofty figures are floated when the government wants to boast about how many Indians are online, but in that hullabaloo, they conveniently leave behind how many don’t even have access to a proper network. Kirsingh Wasave has an almost redundant phone that he mainly uses for playing games and watching already downloaded movies. He can’t make any calls because his village of Bamani in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district doesn’t get any range, and that certainly doesn’t allow him any access to the internet.

The idea of modernity has taken some intangible shape and form – it is the idea of ascertaining individual rights and freedoms, and engaging in activities and pleasures that achieve one’s goals and life’s desires. As the world has come closer together in one sense through the television, phones and now social media, the idea of every individual being able to realise themselves has pervaded even the remotest parts of the world.

One of the most popular slogans chimed by Narendra Modi, other than ‘acche din’ (better days) is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas. While he did get everyone’s ‘saath’ (support) by virtue of winning the election, the sabka vikas (everyone’s progress) is yet to materialise. Bamani village with a 100% Adivasi population of the Bhil people, is lacking not only cellphone range, but also the basic access to electricity. Most recently Modi was found congratulating himself by declaring that all villages in India have been electrified. His proud declaration, however, left many confused and others with a false impression of the truth.

Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondent Chetan Salve reports that parts of this village have already been submerged because of the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project, so there is the fear of more people, whose lives are dependent on their immediate environment, losing their livelihood. Hence, the need for the omni-promised vikas is even greater here, and it is here that its manifestation is so negligible.

Other issues in the village include a dysfunctional Anganwadi (childcare centre), a primary health centre that does not function 24/7 and is understaffed, with nurses not visiting pregnant mothers and also to offer vaccinations to children, rampant malnutrition, minimal job opportunities, a school where teachers rarely turn up, no pensions for the elderly and at the time this video was made, the people of this village had not received ration for nine months. Having said that, soon after the video was made, through Chetan’s personal efforts of advocacy the village received ration and the children were vaccinated.

In April 2017, the Indian Express reported that “every year 40,000 children slip into malnutrition in tribal-dominated Nandurbar”. According to Chetan, last year 839 children died of malnutrition in the district. While in this year’s budget, Maharashtra has earmarked ₹11,121 crores for Tribal Development. This fund has been allocated through the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Social Development Scheme for providing basic facilities in settlements of Scheduled Tribes and Navbuddha communities and is a 22% jump from last year’s budget; as per the same story, in 2015-2016, “of the 2 crores sanctioned by the Tribal Department to the ICDS in Nandurbar, there [was] zero expenditure”. Also, in this year’s budget, Maharashtra has allocated only 4% towards health, which is one of the lowest in the country, apart from a 9% reduction in its budget towards rural development.

Chetan believes that the reason vikas has not reached Bamani is because the government has declared 33 villages in two districts as villages falling within the submerged zones. However, doesn’t that make you wonder why these people haven’t been given the groundwork to create a better life all the more? “Political leaders are answerable. They have their own motives to let things remain the way they are,” he says.

India has the best laws, but their implementation is the worst, you might have found people lamenting. Every human’s right to a life with basic rights is so often challenged by political dysfunction, isn’t it? Well, after so many people have gotten the glimpse of the shiny diamond called vikas, the government needs to live up to its promise. Prolonged cycles of promises before the election and their subsequent non-delivery post-election can lead to ressentiment – what the author of the Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra, describes as “an existential resentment of other people’s being, caused by an intense mix of envy and sense of humiliation and powerlessness. Ressentiment as it lingers and deepens [can] poison civil society and undermine political liberty”.

Video by Community Correspondent Chetan Salve

Article by Shreya Kalra, a member of the VV Editorial Team

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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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