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Why The Aftermath Of The 2019 Election Will Be Nothing Short Of A Nightmare

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The general elections in India are a year away, but preparations for it have already started.

The recent state election in Karnataka was dubbed as its precursor or ‘the final before the final’. The situation is identical to how it works in the corporate sector. In a Business to Business (B2B) relationship, one party will usually be the client – and the other its vendor or service provider. If such a contract is created for, say three years, the vendor will not wait till the end of the period before trying to extend the contract. By the halfway mark, the vendor will start their preparations – and by the end of the second year, they will initiate discussions with the client.

They have a single critical objective, which is to ensure that the client does not start evaluating other vendors. If the client starts evaluating other vendors, it means that the client is not satisfied with the current vendor. The most likely outcome will be that the contract will not be renewed and will instead, go out into the market. This is all about perceptions, and the vendor needs to ensure that the perception the client has about them is a favorable one. The game of politics is also about perceptions – and especially so in India, since it is governed by religious, caste and community- based vote banks.

In my opinion, the tone of the 2019 election was set during the 2014 edition itself. The 2014 election was dominated by two factors – the scams that happened, and were subsequently unearthed, during the 10-year-rule of the UPA, and the rise of Modi and his ‘Gujarat model of development’. The UPA government’s tenure was also plagued by the financial meltdown of 2008 and it’s aftereffects. The Indian economy did not experience the full-blown effects of the situation like other countries, but overall, the growth of the economy came to a grinding halt. The GDP tanked, inflation and unemployment flared up – and when the scams came out in public view, discontent against the government soared to an all-time high.

The BJP did not have a prime-ministerial candidate until 2012. It was a headless party back then. However, Modi’s team took advantage of both these situations and used the ‘Gujarat development model’ as the premise upon which he would project himself as a national leader. This worked remarkably well.

But as the trail towards the election heated up, I realised that the projections about Modi and Gujarat weren’t hunky-dory after all. From my neighbours who had moved to Gujarat, I learned that except in some cities like Ahmedabad, nothing much had changed. Ravish Kumar of NDTV ran extensive coverage of some of the major cities and villages of Gujarat where there were no signs of development. Most importantly, the perception that Modi, as the PM, will get rid of all the problems and bring the economy back on the path of growth did not sit well with me.

The Modi wave and the Gujarat development model may have earned the trust of numerous people. It didn’t, for me.

This fear was explained by his ‘Gujarat development model’, whose effects weren’t quantified or validated by facts and figures. This, especially since the country’s economy and stock market were being affected even by the slightest variations in the valuation of US government bonds. Modi’s much-vaunted plan to bring back the flushed-out black money also sounded hollow. As Arvind Kejriwal mentioned in a televised interview, the more urgent need was to first stop the flow of black money before chasing the money which had already been funneled out of the country.

To summarise, for me, the Modi chant never rose high enough to become a wave. The country’s GDP no longer seems to reflect the economic conditions at the ground level. According to Investopedia, a country’s GDP and inflation are related in five ways. Yet, none of these conditions seem to match India’s present situation.

When crude oil prices were falling globally, India’s fuel prices were still going up – and along with it, the inflation. Yet, the GDP was being portrayed as if it was growing – and that made no sense at all. High GDP growth can trigger inflation, but inflation can never affect GDP positively. Also, GDP and unemployment cannot rise together.

Furthermore, two major initiatives of the government, demonetisation and GST, have completely failed in achieving their stated objective of curbing the black money menace. Money laundering and loan defaults by big time corporate players like Vijay Mallya, which started during the UPA rule, has continued unabated during the last four years as well. All the banks are struggling to cope up with the increasing number of non-performing assets (NPAs). Possession and auction notices of houses and properties, along with auction notices of pawned gold items, throng the daily national and local newspapers. These tell the sordid story of how common people are suffering from the lack of employment and earning opportunities. To add to the woes, farmers across the country are taking their lives.

But, the rich have been getting richer despite all this. Over the course of the last four years, India has emerged as a nation where 73% of the wealth is under the control of 1% of the country’s richest.

The deeper impact of what transpired in 2014 is only becoming apparent now. The BJP did not seek the support of too many political parties to fight the 2014 election. Instead, they chose to go on their own with Modi as their face – effectively making him a single point of success or failure. Given the circumstances under which the 2014 election was conducted, I am inclined to assume that the Congress perhaps did not want to win the election, because they were helpless to stop the downward slide of the economy. They did not want to continue taking the blame for the economic conditions.

Did the UPA intentionally underperform in 2014? (Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

I had realised in 2014 that if Modi won and then failed over the next five years, the Opposition would unite – and it would become a battle between Modi and the rest of India. The country has already seen the fiasco that unraveled in Karnataka after the state election last month. The Congress and JD(S), which had fought against each other, joined hands to form the government. Then, they started bickering over the allotment of portfolios. So if the condition arises that so many regional and national parties unite to form the government in 2019, bickering among them over portfolios would rise to preposterous levels.

For political parties in India, elections have always been more about seizing control over power and money, and less about governance. In the supposedly ‘fastest growing economy in the world’, election manifestos are still filled with empty promises to provide clean drinking water, electricity and education. How can a country’s economy grow when a large part of its population still does not have access to clean drinking water, electricity and education? These are the fundamental rights of every citizen of the country – and it is the primary responsibility of the government to ensure that people have access to their basic rights, irrespective of the party in charge of the government.

I don’t think people should be swayed by party-promises that solely guarantee their basic rights only. Arvind Kejriwal and his government claiming success in transforming the lives of the people of Delhi with cheaper electricity, access to water and improving the education and healthcare sector actually reflects poorly on the country in the world arena because in spite of Delhi being the seat of the country’s government, the sordid and miserable condition of it’s population for such a long time is getting exposed.

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The probable events of the 2019 election and its aftermath already seems like a nightmare to me. Modi and the BJP had assumed (in 2014) that governing his home state for 12 years had given him enough credential to govern the world’s most-diverse country. The spectacular change in their fortunes over the last four years have proved that they do not have the firepower to govern the country.

The alternative to this is a united Opposition – possibly with the Congress at the helm – united only with the intent to grab power. However, when it comes to Arvind Kejriwal and his party, all other parties seem to unite against them because they are terrified of his people-oriented governance agenda. So, they will probably keep him bottled up in Delhi itself. Five more years of uncertainty definitely seem to be in the offing.

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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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