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What Do Driver-less Vehicles Bring To The Table For India?

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Advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous cars are no more a work of fiction. They are real and soon enough, fully autonomous vehicles would be visible on the streets. There are a lot of debates and discussions about them in terms of technology, impact on jobs, etc. But apart from these, they have a far-reaching impact on a society. Today, I would like to go a step forward and highlight what could happen if driver-less cars are launched in India. According to me, it will not just be a technological advancement, but it would affect the behaviour of Indians to a great extent and in a positive way.

Most companies are very close to getting their AVs on the roads. But unfortunately, driverless cars cannot be launched in India for at least a few years. They could be manufactured but they won’t be able to run on the streets at all. The reason for this statement is quite straightforward, AVs depend heavily on external infrastructure.  Some of the dependencies are good roads with all the markings (different lane markings, zebra crossing, turns etc), perfectly functional street lights, street signs etc. If the car has to travel from point A to point B all these things should be available for every inch of the path. It would not work if a 100-metre patch somewhere in between had no markings but the rest had! So the first thing that AVs would bring to the table without even being actually present is a world class road infrastructure leading to a lot of new employment opportunity as well.

Let’s move a little ahead on the timeline and say, the infrastructure is there and the AVs are on the streets. What next? Since they are machines, they do exactly what is asked of them. Since they would have the correct understanding of the traffic rules, enough patience and as machines don’t drink or molest, the streets would be safer than ever. There would be a substantial reduction in the number of road accidents because of human errors. In 2016 alone, more than 400 people a day were killed in road accidents. Unless this is a way to curb the exponentially rising Indian Population this number could be reduced with humans not controlling the steering wheel at all. So, the second thing that AVs would bring to the table is a better traffic sense and safer roads. Moreover, there would be less time consumed in travel as there would be fewer traffic jams. I say this because a lot of traffic jams happen due to deadlock situations created because of some impatient drivers, who are always in a hurry and cut lanes and sometimes end up facing the car coming from the other side.

During the same point on the timeline, there would also be driver-less public transport system. Buses and taxis would be running without human drivers. Since the buses would be driver-less, they would stop only at the predefined stops, would not wait for more than required, would not be greedy for extra money and so will not allow more than the required number of people to board the bus. These factors would make the buses reach the destinations on time without being overcrowded. People wanting to use the public transport would be more comfortable using the public transport then, as compared to now. So, the third thing AVs would bring to the table will be an improved and usable public transport system.

On a similar note, the use of taxis, cabs, car rentals and carpooling would be increased. Taxis and car rentals would mean the same and it would be easier to hire one. No fooling around with the new passengers, no reluctance for the shorter routes, complete privacy, driver not hearing your conversations etc. will add the necessary credibility and make it more user-friendly. Efficiency in finding the best route to reach a point would be excellent. Daily commuting from or to the office would be less stressful.  An eight or ten hours journey would look like a piece of cake, travelling during the night sleeping and saving the valuable daytime. How would the life be if some of the stress is removed? I guess the fourth thing AVs would bring to the table for India is reduced stress for middle-class people.

With increased usage of public transports and cabs, there would be less personal vehicles on the street at a given point in time. An efficient system would keep public transport vehicles and cabs on the streets for most of the time, which means there would be less requirement for parking space. It could be inferred that one of the major growing issues:  “cannot find a parking place” could be solved by AVs. Moreover, with reduced usage of personal vehicles, the exploitation of the renewable resources along with carbon emission could be controlled. Hence, the fifth thing AVs would bring to the table for India will be an efficient and careful usage of the resources.

One of the objectives of new technology is to make the lives of the users easier and happier. Self-driving cars will not only lead to the above-mentioned benefits but will also add flexibility and freedom to the lives of millions of Indians. If we see the lives of people these days, some of them don’t like driving but have to drive daily for one or the other reason, they may have to drive to and from the office, drop their kids to the school or some other mundane task. On the contrary, there are some people who have to depend on some other person to go from one place to another place as they don’t know driving or they don’t want to drive. With AVs around, nobody will have to depend on anybody, and nobody will have to drive for anybody. Driving would truly be a luxurious and entertaining activity rather than a liability.

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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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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