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Why Is India Still A Developing Nation?

The journey of the Indian subcontinent and its tremendous metamorphosis over the last 5,000 years is a great example of how civilizations are formed, cultures developed, and religions born. From establishing the first urban civilization in South Asia in the form of Indus valley civilization to the forming of the Vedic civilization. To the rise of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, to the Muslim dominance in the medieval era, to the establishment of British colonialism, to the freedom movement leading to the country’s partition and independence, India has had a truly remarkable journey so far.

Notwithstanding its cultural superiority ingested through manifold experiences across centuries and the ability to withstand change continuously yet embosom new civilizations, India still languishes as a developing nation. A country that is seventh-largest in the world in size, second-largest in human resources, has the world’s third-largest standing army, a country that propels satellites into space. A country whose Yoga and spiritual way of life have emerged as the greatest healer in modern times, a nation that sends Mars orbiters at a cost lesser than an average Hollywood movie, doesn’t yet find itself in the league of developed nations. Isn’t it intriguing to know as to why such an ancient land, a country with such enormous potential, still struggles to find its rightful place among the developed nations?

As the country liberated itself from British control and gained independence in the last century, little did it know that several pernicious seeds had already been sown by the time the British left. These would soon enlarge into massive trees of self-destruction and act as major impediments to the country’s development in the years to come. Let’s discuss some of the major factors:

Poverty: Poverty has been a major hindrance to India’s quest to be a developed nation. 70% of the country’s population lives in rural areas in conditions that have seen little or no improvement since independence. And sadly, poverty is correlated with other social problems like illiteracy, over-population, malnutrition, unemployment, homelessness etc. It’s all linked together in a vicious circle that thrive on each other.

Corruption: From schools to the parliament, corruption permeates the length and breadth of the country. It has become a part of us and our system in such a way that it’s impossible to spend a day without experiencing it in some way or the other. Considering how it makes our lives so easy, most Indians indulge in it unabashedly fully aware that it’s not right. Corruption has eroded the institutional capacity of governments. Procedures are disregarded, resources are misused, and public offices are bought and sold like household items with democratic values such as trust and tolerance getting crushed in the process.

Religion: Religion has been more of a divider than a unifier in this country. And the reason for this is not just the people who follow it but also unwanted political interference that has always existed and inveigled people as per their convenience. Religious beliefs have consistently played a crucial role in national politics and decisions irrespective of governments, appeasement playing a major role in ruling over the gullible masses.

Population: If there could be one single factor that has played the most significant role in decelerating India’s development march, it has to be population or over-population. For a country that was ripped off all or most of its treasures and wealth by the erstwhile British rulers who left behind a mess, feeding its hungry and ever-multiplying population was a Herculean task. The supply and demand equation has always been highly unbalanced, the latter far exceeding the former thereby creating irreversible imbalances in the standard of living, resource utilization, employment, education, opportunities, healthcare, almost in every sphere.

Illiteracy: India has the highest population of illiterate adults in the world at 287 million. Illiteracy in India is more or less due to the different forms of disparities that exist in our society like gender imbalances, income imbalances, state imbalances, caste imbalances, technological barriers etc. Even more worrying is the fact that illiteracy is directly linked to other social evils like poverty, child labour, child marriage, unemployment, social crimes etc. that should ideally have no place in a developed society.

Caste System: The division of society into so many castes and sub-castes is sinful as it doesn’t allow upward mobility for persons belonging to the lower strata in society and is replete with gross inequality and injustice. Not just this, it makes a mockery of democracy and its values as people in the world’s largest democracy vote on the basis of caste and religion. They most often overlook merit, resulting in an unfair selection of candidates throughout the country.

Terrorism: Be it Pakistan-sponsored, Maoist-sponsored or north-east insurgency, terrorism has slowed down the country’s development in more ways than one. A major portion of the country’s GDP gets diverted towards bolstering defence capabilities that could otherwise have been directed towards other development activities. A terrorist attack, in any part of the country, has a significant impact on the economic growth, investment, overall expenditure, not to mention the safety and security of the general people.

Brain Drain: India has failed to hold back its talented youth and skilled workforce from emigrating to developed countries. that includes doctors, engineers, scientists, technicians etc. This has had quite a significant impact on the country’s development. The mammoth population, cut-throat entrance exams and the insane cut-offs for admission to top Indian Institutes that deny enrollment to even the deserving candidates, all play their part in this exodus. Besides, better work opportunities, better pay packages, high quality of life and facilities tempt most of the students who go abroad to stay back in their host country, thus triggering a prodigious amount of brain drain from India.

These are a few prominent barriers that have always dehorted the country from treading the path of development since independence. Although steps have been taken by governments from time to time to expunge these aforementioned deterrents, their implementation and probity on the part of the people involved has always been questionable. As a matter of fact, challenges of this complexity and magnitude cannot be solved by governments and ministries alone. To rectify these issues, a collaborative approach involving business leaders, members of civil society and academia, youth groups and social entrepreneurs would be required.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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