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Nehru And Vajpayee Were Makers Of Modern India, Politicising Their Legacies Would Be Unfair

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Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had the honour of being the first Prime Minister of India. He was entrusted with this duty during such a phase when India was left alone with some good and bad options in every aspect. It is argued that Nehru advocated state-sponsored industrialisation, increasing the “wealth-producing capacity” and using atomic energy for civilian use. But he realised that for industrialisation to be viable it needed a supportive agrarian economy and a small-scale industrial base. Nehru notably called Industries as the “Temples of Modern India”.  Nehru was undoubtedly a leader of great potential and courage who had a standing before the intellectual class in the world. It won’t be a misnomer to call him as the first world-class or universal leader from India.

Nehru was keenly interested in the political work-affairs around the globe and strengthening the international relations with other nation-states. This is the reason when V.K. Krishna Menon, a close aide of Nehru, initiated to establish Indian Society of International Law, he gleefully agreed to this idea.

That was a crucial time for the world, the third wave of democracy had just begun, Non-Aligned Movement was at peak and Nehru was being regarded as its face in the world. On the other hand, the Non-Proliferation Treaty was being widely discussed. With so many developments in the international arena, Nehru became the first Prime Minister of independent India. That wasn’t an easy task at that moment. No other Indian Prime Minister has so extensively worked for strengthening the international relations. Mrs Indira Gandhi is still an exception to this view who tried to correlate our domestic matters with the international laws and treaties. The Indian Society of International Law, which is a brainchild of Nehru and Menon, provides for Prime Minister to be its Patron, but no other Prime Minister except Nehru and Mrs Gandhi has been interested enough to take up this position. One more leader who can be accredited with the “statesman” tag was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. An avid supporter of the theories of international relations propounded by Nehru, Vajpayee always had a soft corner for the foreign policy matters of Nehru as a Member of Parliament back in the 1960s. However, Vajpayee never missed a chance to criticise (read, respectfully criticise) Nehru but that criticism was somehow construed to be a constructive one. In recent few years, the way certain people have attempted to diminish the image and stature of Nehru shows that he is still a “bonus marks” for the Indian National Congress.  The Nehruvian ideology which developed in the meanwhile created a somewhat neutral way for the various Congress-led governments of the day to function moderately. Similarly, a slightly different doctrine which may be a counter to the Nehruvian theory is developing the new conceptual theory of Atalian/Atalism. The truth is that a younger Atal always admired Nehru and an older Nehru was always impressed by Atal.

Though Vajpayee and Nehru admired each other, there was a significant difference between their views given their background as a major reason. Nehru was born in an influential family who later chose the hardships of life and became a Gandhian follower, while Vajpayee was from a very humble background. Nehru admired western culture and their development models. On the other hand as a member of RSS, Vajpayee’s propagated nationalist ideology.  This can be reflected in many of his decisions like the Pokharan Test and the Kargil war- were issues related to India’s international image were concerned.

Politicisation of Vajpayee’s for the benefit of Bhartiya Janta Party, which Vajpayee’s niece Karuna Shukla has objected, is similar to the Indian National Congress using Nehru for political gains. The status of Vajpayee was of such that a statement was very popular about him that – “He is a right person in the wrong party.” But after his sad demise, will it be right to confine Vajpayee’s statesmanship in the parameters of any single party? Will it be right that if Bhartiya Janata Party generates sympathy in the name of Vajpayee after his death? The answer would be a NO!

Nehru and Vajpayee both are among the very few statesmen India has produced so far. Their domestic and foreign policies were not a result of overseas trips and visits. Their policies were the result of their love and affection for this country. They were the builders of modern India; it will be unfair to tie them up in the electoral politics after their deaths.  Because, Nehru and Vajpayee never wanted any political party to win, they always wanted the democracy of this nation to succeed.

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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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