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“Regulators should let the performers blossom and not try to squeeze them”

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Dr. Jitendra K. Das at CII – Higher Education Summit 2018

At the recently held Higher Education Summit 2018 organized by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Delhi, speakers and delegates from some of the nation’s top education institutes deliberated and shared their thoughts on the future of higher education and challenges being faced by the academia.

Representing the regulators, also present on the occasion, were Dr. Manju Singh, Joint Secretary UGC, who set the context of the seminar as she stated that the expectations from Universities primarily are: A Good Learning Experience, Quality Placement, Industry-driven Professional Environment, Better student-faculty ratio and UG/PG/PhD ratio, International Exchange programs and collaborations. Prof. P. B. Sharma, Summit Chairman & Vice Chancellor, Amity University Gurugram and President, Association of Indian Universities, was quick to respond. He questioned the outcome of the laid down objectives in the absence of any tangible benchmarking system and said that in order to achieve the set of desired goals, instead of broad guidelines, an action-oriented guiding principle has to be in place.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Jitendra K. Das, Director, FORE School of Management, New Delhi and Chairperson of the session themed ‘Role of Regulators to support the growth of higher education and improve quality standards’ referred to the nine different types of regulatory bodies in the country with separate set of rules and regulations. “None of them have anything to do with the quality or growth of the institution, leave alone the market forces. Top-ranked Universities in the US and Canada have autonomous units for research grants independent of any regulations. Let the performers blossom instead of trying to catch them by the neck and squeeze them to death”, he said.

Deliberating onSingle Regulator vs Multiple Bodies’, Dr. Raghunath Shevgaonkar, VC, Bennett University said that as long as the policies are transparent and same for all, single or multiple, do not matter much. “Differential treatment is not right when output is same for all.  Else by design, you are encouraging inefficiency. ‘Efficiency – Delivery – capacity building’ cannot be compromised upon”, added Dr. Jitendra K. Das.

Dr. Atul Khosla, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Founder, Shoolini University pointed out how the regulations and set of rules do not touch around 40% of the deliverables of the ‘business model’ or the outcome based objectives of the academia.

Mr. Aditya Berlia, Co-Founder and Pro-Chancellor, ApeeJay Stya University, said, “The major philosophical difference in the regulatory bodies compared to the developed countries is that while they are ready to provide all support and hand-hold the academic institutes till they reach the desired level in terms of deliverables, in India the mentality is of that of ‘gate-keeping’ which is essentially pulling the system downwards”.

Dr. A. M. Agrawal, Pro Vice-Chancellor, GLA University, pointed out the dearth of quality research initiatives and a dismal number of research papers, said, “When Private Universities are working six months for admissions and rest six for placements, where is the time for anything else.”

Dr. B. S. Satyanarayana, VC, BML Munjal University, said, “Innovation and adaptation is something the regulators should be looking into”.

Responding to a view as to why Indian Universities were being compared to US Universities where ‘legacies run for 100s of years’, Dr. Das citing examples of Universities in China, Hong Kong and Singapore which find place in the top ranking university lists, despite the fact that reforms in education started taking place there much later as compared to India, said, “Regulators need to understand what US, Singapore or China is doing that India isn’t doing”.

Dr. Renu Luthra, VC, Galgotias University opened the next session on How to collaborate with industry players; need for upgrading curriculum and forging research partnership along with co-panelists – Dr. Indira Bharadwaj, Chairperson PGDM and Admissions at Delhi Business School; Vishal Sood, Executive Director, Maharishi Markendeshwar University; Dr. Ajay K Jain, Director at IMS Ghaziabad and Dr. Vikas Madhukar, Director Amity University; Dr. Dayanand Pandey, Director, Jaipuria Institute of Management; Dr. Chandan Chowdhury, Associate Dean at Indian School of Business.

Addressing ‘Skill gaps for employability leveraging technology’, Dr. Luthra mentioned if opportunities like ‘e-internships’ could be made available to the students on a wider scale. Vishal Sood said, “Focus should be on growth, development, and outcome-based learning”. Echoing similar sentiments, Dr. Indira Bharadwaj stated, “In order to make the outcome based education process measurable, industry guidelines should be laid down as benchmarks and standards, which further should be mapped to assessment models and evaluation matrix by institutes”.

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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, 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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