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From Indigo Revolt In 1859 To Kisan Padayatra In 2018, The Plight Of Our Farmers Remains The Same

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India is a vibrant democracy with a big fat constitution and the tag of one of the fastest growing economies of the world which is overtaking its next-door giant neighbour China in terms of economic growth. American multinational information technology company IBM refers the age as an ‘Indian century’. But its simply an ‘Indian nightmare’ for more than 50 million of our population engaged in agriculture, and my article is devoted to the farmers who have built this nation with their sweat and blood.

Many of us are aware of the Bharatiya Kisan Union’s padayatra on 2nd October from Haridwar to New Delhi – protesting the non-payment of around 12,000 crore sugarcane dues from mills, and repeated crop failures. The farmers are making their bid for survival in the ‘war of Bharat against the forces of India’. This reminds me of the march of 500 kisans over 200 miles from Manmad to Faizpur in 1937 – led by N.G Ranga.

There are numerous incidences where the ordinary farmers pitted against the ruling, corrupt political and social establishments. It is indeed a necessity to throw light on these agrarian struggles of the post-independent era. The Tebhaga movement from 1946-1947, was a struggle by sharecroppers to retain two-thirds of agricultural products for themselves refusing to pay half of their crop share to Jotedars and demanding that only one-third of their crops be stored in the godowns, and not by the Jotedars.

The Telangana Peasant’s Movement started in mid-1946 and continued till the October 1951. It engulfed the whole Telangana region and the Hyderabad state. Robert. L. Hardgrave in his book ‘India-Government and Politics in a Developing Nation, writes “the demands raised were broad ones, and the nature of the struggle itself makes this movement one of the revolutionary struggle unmatched in the Indian history”. The objective was concerned with the whole of the peasantry against illegal and excessive extraction by the rural feudal aristocracy. It was a struggle in which the army of the landed gentry killed many peasants, and later, the mass murder was advanced by the Indian army, after the takeover of the Hyderabad state.

The Naxalbari peasant uprising was the last significant uprisings in India. It occurred in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in West Bengal – in a place called Naxalbari within the subdivision of Siliguri in Darjeeling district. The landless peasants have long claimed that their land was encroached by tea-estates, and also by the rich peasants. The agrarian revolt rose in April 1962 and continued till June in the whole Siliguri subdivision. The peasants burned all the legal documents, unequal agreements between the moneylenders, and confiscated hoarded rice and distributed it among themselves. The movement came to a halt when the West Bengal police, under the pressure of the central government, entered the region and swept the area.

You may think why I am concentrating on the past by ignoring the present. Man cannot become entirely oblivious of the past; past, present and future constitute an unbroken continuum. And the past is sought to be modified with the emergence of new socio-economic and cultural categories. The deplorable constriction of the farmer is not a 21st-century affair but has a deep history and events which make our present more prone to strikes and protests. From Indigo peasant uprising in 1859 to Kisan Padayatra in 2018 the plight of our farmers remains same.

During colonialism, when India was a ‘roasted beef of old England’ – agriculture in India was an appendage of British colonialism. In the post-independence era, the wealth of rural India was drained to enhance the economic power of metropolises – as argued by Sharad Joshi, the spokesperson of Shetkari Sangathana. This is an example of internal colonialism. These incidences echo in Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Africa’ – where the barbaric greed of the civilised and their shameless inhumanity is put on naked display.

The enemy of the farmers is not only the government but also bourgeois multi-national organisations like World Trade Organization (WTO), with its villainous trading provisions like tariff reductions and elimination of domestic support subsidies which gave the farmers a deadly blow.

When someone says India is growing as a global power in the waiting or the recent decade are an ‘Indian age’, I quote this famous saying by Camoes’s Lusiad to them,

“Delusions are possessing you when already brute forces and strength (against the farmers) are labelled as strength and valour.”


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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.

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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.”

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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, 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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