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‘We Need A Benevolent Dictator’: The Pitfalls Of Choosing To Be Apolitical In A Democracy

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The word ‘ politics ’ seems to be one of the most hated words among the youth of our country. It is with great pride that people declare, “We don’t know anything nor do we care about politics in this country.”

The big question is whether this trend is taking the right direction? You may find many who will defend political ignorance by listing the evils caused by politics such as corruption and disruptions to name a few. But can a largely ‘apolitical’ society take our country forward in the coming decades? Isn’t this against the ideas previous generations fought for?

This article looks into the reasons behind the tendency to be politically ignorant, tries to find solutions and finally argues that a politically conscious society is indeed the heartbeat of any democracy.

Why Political Consciousness Is Important

The meaning of democracy is not confined to the four walls of the voting room. The essence of a democracy is in understanding, analysing, criticising and reacting to issues. The people who believe that they have nothing to do with politics are not only mistaken but also ignorant.

Everything from the clothes you wear to the lessons you teach your children to the price of the grocery items is a part of politics. But the bigger question here is about the need for being politically conscious while living in a democratic country. The biggest problem of a society that is not politically conscious will be the fact that it can easily be fooled by any sort of propaganda or brainwashing which is done by political outfits from the left, right and centre.

Secondly, it is the moral obligation or duty of the educated higher classes to stand up for the lower class oppressed people. The idea of standing up for someone else shall only rise when someone understands the dimensions of politics involved in the issue.

The rising trend of arguing against strikes and agitations by the middle-class is in itself ironic. It was the series of strikes and agitations over the last century that made life what it is for the middle-class today. It is more fascinating because many young people who are part of the upper-middle-class strata don’t even know about these struggles that made their life what it is, which in itself points at what an apolitical society can lead to.

The understanding of politics has reached such a low point today that on popular social media networks anybody on the left is called out as ‘communist’, while anyone on the right is called a ‘Nazi’ or ‘fascist’. The space for debate and discussion is shrinking due to wrong interpretations or lack of understanding of political ideologies and the lack of democratic political space in itself. This space of debate and discussion is of utmost importance in a country like ours which comes from a Gandhian tradition where a Tagore and Gandhi could agree to disagree. Political activism, ideologies and voices combined are the backbone of a democratic system.

It is essential to understand that a society must be politically educated and engaged in order to make a democracy vibrant and what it is supposed to mean. The growing anger against the establishment has resulted in a huge section of people arguing strongly for a dictatorship! This whole idea in itself is a result of a lack of political consciousness.

On a lighter note, these people claim that the country needs a ‘benevolent dictator’, which is ironic because a benevolent person can never be a dictator. This hunger for a dictatorial system to bring development is a result of lack of decentralisation of power and poor understanding of politics in general. These trends clearly indicate that political consciousness is indeed the heartbeat of a democracy.

Reasons For Being Apolitical And Possible Solutions:

The reason many people, especially the youth, stay away from politics is due to the current standard of political discourse in our nation. Another major reason is the belief that politics is something for the ‘netas’ and not for us! It is fascinating that this trend is more prevalent among urban educated youth and urban people.

Now, what are the possible solutions? The most important of all is the inclusion of more political education in our education system and making the students explore the various ideas and ideologies that will help shape their personality. The second and most difficult one will be for our politicians to change and make the system more open and decentralised in nature. There have been positive signs with our PM himself asking for the youth to join politics and people like Shashi Tharoor have always written about the need for people to engage with the political system.

Another possible reason for the lack of political interest is the highly placement oriented college education system. These days, the sole purpose of people going to colleges is to get placements with corporates. Education is shrinking into being a workman producing market instead of places which would develop individuals for the society. This issue needs serious addressing and correcting at the highest level and also at a psychological level for the students and their parents.

Conclusion:

In any democratic country, it is essential to have a politically conscious and responsive society. In our country, which has the highest percentage of young people, let us hope a day will come when these bright youngsters shall step out of their selfish growth ambitions and start raising their voice for people who don’t have a voice.

This would finally fill our parliament and Vidhan Sabhas with highly educated, qualified and honest people who shall take this country to greatness! And on that day the souls of Gandhi, Patel, Nehru and Bhagat Singh shall smile at us together.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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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