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Did You Know About This Colonial-Era Tourist Spot In Jharkhand?

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Being born and brought up in Jharkhand, all that I could see around me were the grand coal mines spread across the region and the horribly polluted ecosystem which came as an obvious consequence. Tourism was hardly a word one would associate with this state where the Naxal movement and lawlessness were at their peak. It was not until Mahendra Singh Dhoni became Indian cricket’s greatest captain that Jharkhand managed to get some recognition in popular culture. However, when it comes to a destination to visit, Jharkhand is still off the radar for most people. My own indifferent attitude towards this state of affairs changed when my family decided to go on a road trip to the undiscovered landscapes of Jharkhand – the most famous of the pitstops being Netarhat.

Netarhat is a small township located 160 KM west of Ranchi, the state capital. Despite it being a hill station, etched with historical (and colonial) memories, few dared to venture into the place for fear of the infamous Naxalites who had made the surrounding jungles their hub of activity. However, some radical and commendable measures taken by the state government in times of desperation led to a systematic dissolution of these forces and this has been a boon for the tourism industry in the region. We also decided to become a part of the crowd which had suddenly started to flood the town of Netarhat and were not disappointed even once.

Netarhat’s lasting legacy is the Netarhat Vidyalaya, fondly called as the “last gurukul”, known for producing some of the best bureaucrats and technocrats in the country. However, what makes the place such an adored spot is its plesasant and fresh climate, offering respite from the uncontrolled pollution and breathlessness of Jharkhand’s urban industrial townships. Our first glimpse of its unprecedented beauty manifested at a place christened ‘Magnolia point’, which had a story which is as exotic as the place itself. Legend has it that Magnolia was an English maiden who fell in love with a shepherd boy, apparently a local tribal lad, but failed to convince her aristocratic parents of their union. Heartbroken, she jumped off the cliff with her horse. The place immortalised her love. And the sun setting across the Vindhya mountains reminds one of her painful loss.

A few kilometers from the spot is the historical Dak Bungalow, the kind of dwelling made famous in old Indian ghost stories and TV serials, which also happened to be our home for a night in Netarhat. The cool nights were filled with strange noises and calls of the wild, often making you wonder whether there indeed was an element of horror in those dear old homestays. In the morning hours, sipping tea at the small dining space of the bungalow was reminiscent of the English luxury and aristocracy, so ironically placed amidst the vast expanse of wilderness, inhabited by some of the country’s oldest tribal communities.

The sunrise point is another popular spot with the tourists, located inside the sprawling campus of Hotel Prabhat Vihar, Netahat’s only star hotel which also provides a unique tent accommodation in Swiss style for those who can afford. Witnessing the rising sun spreading its red fluorescence across the sky was mesmerising for any urban dweller who hardly gets to see dawn in its full glory.

Driving through the winding roads of the small township, we were greeted with the famous pine forests which look so oddly befitting despite the fact of their distant foreign origin. The French Chalet house is yet another exotic spectacle that meets the eye as one is traveling down the hilly roads.

For anyone interested in anthropology, Netarhat is a perfect field for study. The Birhor villages are clustered within the township, offering a strange perspective of human evolution for those who can appreciate it. The Birhors are regarded as one of the oldest communities of people, not only in the Indian subcontinent, but also in Asia as a whole. Although most of them have adopted contemporary lifestyles and culture, one can still sense the history that they carry with them. One must not miss a chance to interact with the elders of these villages who hold a treasure of old folklores and stories of our ancient past.

Netarhat is indeed a hidden gem of Jharkhand, rightly called as the “Queen of Chotanagpur”. For anyone who craves natural beauty and prehistory in a land of undiscovered territories, Netarhat must not be forsaken. Do visit it during the months of October-February when the state government organizes the “Sharad Mahotsav”, complete with cultural festivals and guided tours of the region.

(The name ‘Netarhat’ is a local adaptation of the phrase “Nature’s heart”, which is what the old English dwellers of the place had found it to be.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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