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Political Parties Have Systematically Legalised Corruption In Our Country

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Today, when I sat down to write this article, I remembered April 7, 2014. It was a historical day because BJP’s manifesto for General Elections was released on this day. Like millions of others, I also apprehended that this time around we truly had a party we could depend on. What this optimism accounted for was reflected in their manifesto. But at the same time, this optimism came along with an inherent fear. For me, the sense of fear was greater than that of optimism. I congratulate those voters who didn’t fall prey to fake promises. Readers, I can be a staunch critic of the government. And believe me, if you analyze the discourse neutrally keeping your bias aside, you will definitely agree with me.

We cannot deny that the mandate of the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections was generated in the way to highlight BJP’S firm stand against corruption and the promise of ₹15,00,000 in every bank account. They strongly opposed the foreign funding of political parties.

The Representation of People’s Act, 1951 bars political parties to accept funds from foreign companies. The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 also bans overseas corporations from funding “political parties, candidates for elections, government servants and employees”. In the year 2010, BJP and INC received funds from a subsidiary of Vedanta Limited, a London-based company. Delhi High Court, on March 29, 2014, found both the parties guilty of a violation of FCRA  and directed Election Commission and Govt. to take serious actions against the parties.

Sadly, EC citing some reasons transferred its responsibility to the Ministry of Home Affairs in utter disregard for the principle of natural justice “Nemo iudex in causa sua”. In May 2014, Indian governance was entrusted to Modi with the largest mandate since 1984. So, he was given the responsibility of the nation’s citizens whose daily lives are governed largely by “faith”. Did he execute his responsibility? Of course, he did, but not for the welfare of the people. However, the expectations of corporates and businessmen were seriously taken care of. How? Let us now discuss in detail. The Finance Bills that came up in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 have sufficient proof for this.

The Foreign Exchange Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2016 made the receiving of funds from foreign companies easier. The FCRA, 1976 defines “Foreign Firm” as a company- Indian or Foreign registered abroad or with subsidiaries abroad. Now, a company to come within the ambit of “Foreign Company” must at least have 50% shareholding of a foreign company. This act also came with a six years retrospective effect, thus making the donations since 2010 legal.

In 2017, NDA government brought up the Finance Bill (now an act) and a “money bill” without the interference of Rajya Sabha.“ Electoral Bonds” were introduced. However, through this, donors and political parties were guaranteed anonymity. In spite of ₹2000 limit, there could be repeated donations and a scope for the creation of “shell companies”. Before these amendments, a company could have contributed up to 7.5% of the average of its net profits of the last three FYs to a party. Moreover, a company was bound to disclose in P&L accounts, the amount along with the name of the political party. The enactment removed the upper limit and the need for companies to disclose the names of donor parties.

Finally, in the Finance Bill, 2018, the FCRA was further amended. This attributed legality to the donations received by the political parties from foreign companies with a 42 years retrospective effect. Any donation made after August 5, 1976, which was otherwise “illegal” is now “legal”. Thus, the scope for scrutiny has also come to an end.

March 22, 2017, and March 13, 2018, are the two dates that mark legalisation of corruption in our country by political parties. It is not an unknown fact that such fundings come from MNCs and corporations in consideration of maximum favourable returns from the government.

Why are such enactments a matter of concern for us? There will be implications from the grass root to the apex level when it comes to governance. First of all, the contracts will be diverted to the MNCs through secret funding. Secondly, neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism may influence our country in an adverse way. It may create hostile blocks in India. There may be a proxy war-like situation in the country like Syria. Thirdly, external influence on the election process could very well disrupt or alter the true mandate of people. Lastly, owing to the untrustworthy nature of our banking system, a lot of black money is bound to creep into the Indian economy.

The most critical attribute of the situation is the silence of mainstream media on such a grave issue. Inadequacy in transparency in the funding of political parties should worry us all. Ideally, it is not the way political parties are supposed to function in a democracy and only adds to the opaqueness of election funding, something that goes against the promises of Modi. Moreover, no other party opposed it, as they all drink from the same glass.

BJP is the same party that had cancelled licenses for 20,000 NGOs in 2016 for violating FCRA regulations, had demonetized 86% of notes for public accountability and had introduced GST. But when it comes to government accountability, it goes scot-free for accepting illegal foreign donations. These are issues that citizens can’t even question as political parties don’t come within the ambit of RTI.

Earlier, Modi had referred to many of his naysayers as agents of Naxalites, ISI, Pakistan and CIA. But as per the report of an NGO; Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR): BJP got 85% of the corporate donations in 2016-17. Moreover, no Lokpal has been appointed yet, as was promised in the manifesto. Thus, it is now our turn to ask Modi the difficult questions. On account of people who have suffered a lot, I would like to quote, “लहर की प्यास पर पहरे बिठाए जाते हैं, समंदरों की तलाशी कोई नहीं लेता” (we are looking at the effect but not at the real issue and cause).

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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.

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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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