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In 2019, India Will Battle Its Past For A Different Future

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As the Modi-led BJP government enters its last lap of governance, it has begun to prepare itself for the next general election by launching its outreach programme. Their leaders are hitting the road and going back to the ground, asking for support from various sections of the society.

We don’t know if it was a move planned well before the BJP faced a humiliating defeat in the by-election, thereby failing to form a government in Karnataka. However, what it does indicate is that the party understands the importance of reconnecting with the people, after the Opposition
parties have began to forge an alliance to fight the BJP – and thereby present a credible alternative for the people of India.

Given the social composition of India, the alliance which has emerged due to the growing power of the BJP (as an election-winning machine) has enormous potential to give a stiff competition to the ruling party in the 2019 election. However this will require a lot of courage from the leaders of alliance to not only reform their individual parties and leadership style, but to also train and discipline their cadres for cooperation and management purposes in the upcoming election.

The biggest challenge before the leaders of alliance is not one of deciding on the numbers of seat to be distributed among them Rather, it lies in preparing an ideological plank that can survive the BJP’s ideological combine of a modern outlook with their politics aimed at future generations. In the last four years, the BJP has successfully transformed itself from a ‘holding-back’ type of outfit into a ‘forward-looking’ party. Until the individual parties in the alliance transform themselves accordingly, they will have little chance to survive (let alone win) the upcoming contest.

The pasts of the individual parties in alliance will obviously be a continuous reference point in the coming election campaign. Unfortunately, for most parties in the alliance, their history hasn’t been a good, let alone glorious, one. The parties that sprang from the socialist movement, for instance, have become ‘family-stricken’. Their socialism extends, at most, to their family and caste members. To worsen things even more, almost all these parties are headed and run, de facto, by someone within the family leadership. How will these parties, who have seemingly never seen inner-party democracy survive the competition from a party which has been managed and run by professionally-trained cadres who have prepared themselves by facing the heat and dust of the Opposition rule in the last five decades?

Personally speaking, I think that the Congress, which supposedly works in a democratic manner, will also be in the stands for choosing a president that comes from the Gandhi family and for having various other leaders who have been a part of the political elite since ages. Thus, in the 2019 election, people will be offered a choice between the seemingly ‘democratically-functioning’ BJP and an alliance of a few families for their survival in politics.

Politically as well as socially, the parties in the alliance individually represent the sectarian interests of one or two castes and communities. It is no secret that whenever these parties have come to power in their respective states, they have ensured that particular communities are given benefits for cultivating a ‘patron-client’ relation.The BSP, for instance, has cultivated a huge vote-bank among the Jatavs in UP. Similarly, the RJD and SP are known for favouring Yadavs and Muslims in UP and Bihar by distributing public offices, contracts, among other such opportunities.

In my opinion, this culture of having clientele will barely stand ground against the ‘for-all’ culture of the BJP that it has seemingly developed under Modi’s leadership by successfully shrugging off the Brahmin-Baniya image of the 90’s and becoming a ‘catch-all’ party. In the 2019 election, the voters will be given a choice between a party gaining ground nationwide and parties with
sectarian and particular interests.

Thirdly and most importantly, the alliance has very less to offer to the economic agenda for
the country. Not many can deny that India, in its present state, can ever think of going back to the old socialist welfare state model. If anything, the India of today requires attempts which will take the economy to newer heights by pushing second-generation economic reforms with full steam.

It is not surprising that the BJP, which used to oppose FDI in retail, has changed its stance after assuming power. It has not only understood the need to cast away an old socialist regime of large government spending through high borrowings but has also continuously made efforts to reduce the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio by rationalising subsidies, stopping leakages and pushing towards a self-reliant economy. Disinvestment in unprofitable units, and the merger of the under-performing companies and banks are all steps that the BJP government has taken. It is also ready to expand the tax base of the country by launching another set of reforms for bettering the tax-to-GDP ratio of the country. The BJP has done way too much on the economic front that Congress, or any other party with the socialist hangover and the fear of losing an election, would probably have taken two terms to complete.

Thus, the voters of 2019 will be offered the choice of:

1. Electing a party that believes in the future and has everything in its basket that a new India demands.

2. Or they can elect those who want to keep the good only to themselves and deprive others of the same.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aditya Choudhary

    Nicely described but few more positives of the opposition united or otherwise can be mentioned to balance the article.

  2. Aditya Choudhary

    Nicely described but a few more positives of the opposition united or otherwise can be mentioned to provide a more balance picture.

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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.

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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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