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#YKASummit2018: ‘Entire System Under Modi Govt Is Centralised, This Should Change in 2019’

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The increasing legislative overreach of the Union government in the past four years has raised serious questions over the state’s autonomy. The state governments that have ruling parties other than BJP have been accusing centre of undermining the federal structure. The efforts to conduct simultaneous elections, centralisation of economic power, and not seeking state’s consultations in crucial decisions like the appointment of the governor are seen as a threat to the state’s autonomy.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, along with other eminent political leaders: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Kunal Sarangi, INC spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi and RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary- discussed Centre’s overreach during the Youth Ki Awaaz Summit on September 2 at Dr BR Ambedkar International Center, in New Delhi.

Shashi Tharoor, a Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, opened the debate raising a question that whether or not Centre should loosen its hold over the states. The Panel was of the opinion that the power should be decentralised and the indigenous concerns of the states should find a place in the national level policymaking.

Centre’s Interference In The Functioning Of States

The policymakers expressed their concerns over increasing centralisation of economic and decision-making power and the Union government’s efforts to sideline regional governments in state-specific affairs. They unanimously stressed upon the importance of the federal structure of the country.

Vice president of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Jayant Chaudhary: “We are a part of nation, but every state and region has its uniqueness and concerns. The rule of the majority doesn’t mean that you discard dissent. The decision taken by a strong leader of a strong party are being thrust upon without any consultation with the state functionaries. This undermines fundamentals of our constitution.”

A technocrat-turned politician from Jharkhand Kunal Sarangi, noted “For Jharkhand, the way Centre is interfering with everything that ideally the state should deal with, is becoming a concern. For two years the state assembly hasn’t been functional, and major decisions are bulldozed only because they have the majority. The amendment to Chhotangapur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act was widely opposed, but the way the ruling party dealt with the opposition was disturbing. People have given you a mandate, but that doesn’t mean you’ll weaken the institutions and constitutional provisions of decision-making.”

Speaking on the Centre’s interference in the state’s affairs, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “Entire system is centrally dominated and autonomy of states are being undermined. The idea of India that brought all the states together because they were promised they could continue to function while being part of the country is being challenged. Such instances of legislative and administrative overreach by the Centre happen on a daily basis. We have seen that during Karnataka elections. Similar observations were made in Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, and many other states. Right now it’s not about asking more autonomy but to get what was envisioned in the constitution.”

Region Divides And Distribution Of Resources

Priyanka Chaturvedi: “We never saw such heated debates on the north and south divide earlier. Such polarisation is happening only now. Maybe we need inter-state councils which have been dysfunctional under this government. Deliberations would result in coming up with proper policies. North and South should engage and collaborate. But Centre is playing big brother in deciding who gets what and how much.”

Jayant Chaudhary: “Politics is all about identity. Assam is having NRC exercise, and other states are demanding that too. States often fight for identities, but the point is not to undermine constitutional provisions.”

Kunal Sarangi: “Identity should not become the main focus of your strategies. You cannot be spending 50 lakhs on the statue of Shivaji. You give Rs 500 crore to Kerala flood relief but spend around Rs 4000 crore on statues. Also, resource allocation should be based on the indigenous demands of the community not just a general perspective of development.”

The Road To 2019

Talking about the concrete ideas that the opposition will be using to single themselves out from the functioning of the ruling government, the panellist stressed upon the need for state’s autonomy, expanding the scope of MPs in the party, and transparency in the functioning.

Priyanka Chaturvedi: “Niti Aayog which is now PMO aligned has to be reworked and inter-state councils have to be strengthened. The legislative assemblies and scope of MLAs would be expanded, and it won’t be a one person show.”

Shashi Tharoor: “In four years we have seen that there are limitations of the branding and marketing. We’ve had worst of both worlds- a parliamentary form of government and presidential government. People should vote for individual MPs who would represent their indigenous concerns. Also, the scope and independence of MPs have to be expanded. No government should have the entitlement to the power. If they fail to serve, voters throw them out and give some other party a chance. And it applies to every party.”

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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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