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From Irrigation Water To Andhra Settlers, Here Are The Key Issues Of Telangana Elections

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Telangana is going to vote for its legislative assembly on December 7, 2018. Here are some significant issues in Telangana elections based on the people’s opinions on the performance of the government, their rating of the government in terms of implementing pre-poll promises, their assessment of the welfare schemes implemented
by the government and local problems.

Though several welfare schemes have been announced and implemented in the last four years and almost every household has one beneficiary of one scheme or the other, recall value of those schemes is inversely proportional. Out of more than 75 welfare schemes implemented by the government, people are able to recall not more than half a dozen. But then people have different and critical opinions on even the schemes which reached them. In many cases they have suggestions to improve the schemes, suggesting that even though they are beneficiaries they are not totally
satisfied. Some of these issues have the potential to become major election issues. The same issues may be used by the other contestants to dent the ruling party vote and even defeat the ruling party candidates. Thus it is necessary to go into the issues in detail.

RYTHU BANDHU: This is one of the flagship programmes of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) government providing Rs 4,000 per acre per crop in cash as input for farming. The scheme was announced by the government last year and the farmers have received one installment.  Though more than 58 lakh farmers received this benefit there are disappointments. While this scheme is applicable to land owners instead of actual cultivators, the major purpose of providing capital input is not completely fulfilled. At least 30% of the actual farmers in every village are not land owners but are cultivating the farm as tenants. This entire section is opposing the scheme. Their objection is that it is only providing additional income for the title-holders but not helping agriculture. Another major section, who have marginal land holdings of two acres or less say they get a meagre assistance while the large land holders of 10 acres or more are getting larger amounts. They say that the government could have set an upper limit for providing this scheme. Another major objection from the farmers was that they are juxtaposing
this Rs 4,000 assistance with the rise in the prices of fertilisers and other agricultural inputs. They are drawing particular attention to the decrease of 5 kg in quantity and rise of Rs 400 in the price of complex fertiliser and saying whatever is being given with one hand is being taken away by the other hand. Farmers at several places
demanded remunerative prices instead of Rs 4,000 per acre per annum.

CROP LOAN WAIVER: Though farmers treat this loan waiver as a boon, they also think that the way it was implemented did not provide them any benefit. As the government provided the assistance in four installments, the interest on the remaining debt piled up and finally the farmers feel their crop loans remained intact. In almost
all cases they immediately recall the loan waiver scheme by the UPA government in 2008 which was a one-time settlement that completely relieved them from debt. When the scheme was announced then, there were a section of farmers who already repaid the loans. To see that they feel they were not shortchanged the state government gave
them an incentive for their prompt repayment. Now as the old loans are not cleared completely, farmers could not avail new loans.

UNINTERRUPTED POWER SUPPLY: Provision of 24-hour power supply was well received by farmers in several places and this was listed as one of the first achievements of the government. However, in some places where water table is low, some farmers said they never asked for 24-hour power. They explained it leads to more exploitation of water by the rich and those with larger landholdings thereby depleting water to the lesser large holdings.

IRRIGATION WATER: The irrigation projects, contemplated by the government, have come to fruition only in some constituencies and people in the other constituencies are hopeful.

DOUBLE BEDROOM HOUSING: This is a much touted welfare scheme of the government in which it planned to build about 3 lakh double bedroom for the homeless poor. However, by the government’s own admission it could complete only a little more than 9,000 houses by the time it went for early elections. The scheme has raised expectations and aspirations of the people and hence the disappointment was very visible. Almost in every village failure of this programme was on top of the respondents’ minds. Out of the 102 villages the team visited, the scheme was satisfactorily implemented only in three villages. Even here, people complained that the homeless in the village did not get it, or even when the houses were constructed they were given to people having houses just because they were close to the ruling party leaders. There were even bizarre situations. The house was constructed on a land belonging to the owner but was allotted to another person. In some cases, the failure was justified by TRS cadres and sympathisers that there was no government land to take up this scheme. In some villages, people recalled the housing scheme of the previous Congress government where people were given financial assistance to build their own house on their own land and therefore found it better.

PENSIONS: Most of the old and physically challenged people in villages are happy about the increased pensions. However, some people expressed that the earlier method of disbursal was friendly towards them as they were given the monthly pension amount in the village post office. Now the pensions are being deposited in a bank forcing
them to travel long distances and stand in queues to get their amount.

THREE ACRES TO LANDLESS DALITS: This is another important welfare scheme announced by the government where each landless Dalit family would be provided with three acres of land. This announcement reached almost all landless Dalit families in the state, but actually, by the government’s own admission its
implementation did not reach not more than 10,000 families out of about three lakh landless Dalit families. Except in one village out of the 102 villages surveyed this scheme was not implemented and people expressed their disappointment.

EMPLOYMENT: This was one of the major drivers of the separate state movement and during the 2014 elections the TRS promised reduction of unemployment by providing a job to each house. Even after the formation of the state the government promised to fill more than one lakh government jobs, but by the government’s own admission it could not fill more than 26,000 jobs. Most of the educated unemployed youth are very angry with the performance of the government in this aspect and they may influence all the votes in their respective households. In fact, a youth said in his father’s presence that his brother asked his father and all the other members to vote for TRS in 2014 and now will ask for voting out the TRS as he is still unemployed.

MISSION BHAGIRATHA: This is another prestigious programme where the government planned to provide drinking water to all the households across state. In fact the chief minister categorically said he would not seek votes if he did not provide water to each house. However, except in a couple of villages, Mission Bhagiratha drinking water has not reached households. In almost every village the team saw that pipelines were laid but water connections were not given. In several villages, people said they did not need such costly water in the first place as they had their own
potable water systems in place. This say that instead the scheme should have been implemented in select villages which suffered the fluoride problem, instead of applying it to all villages.

MISSION KAKATIYA: This important scheme was taken up with much fanfare during the first two years, but now has kind of faded from the peoples memory. They say that these days only contractors have benefitted forcing some to sarcastically dub it ‘Commission Kakatiya’.

KALYANA LAKSHMI & SHAADI MUBARAK: In almost every village people recalled this government scheme and said eligible families received this financial assistance when the girl is being married. However, there are some complaints of corruption and misappropriation.

SHEEP DISTRIBUTION: This scheme to provide sheep to the shepherd community to financially empower them was implemented in many villages, but in most of the villages people said it was the brokers and sheep traders who benefited instead of shepherds.

FISH DISTRIBUTION: This scheme was not much recalled by people though 90% of the villages had tanks and other water bodies.

BATHUKAMMA SAREES: The government in a novel way announced and implemented a scheme which provided a sari to each woman during the Bathukamma festival. This scheme in the process provided relief to problem-ridden weavers the by providing them work. However, almost all women the team met expressed displeasure on the quality of the sarees they received and said they felt insulted by the government.

RELATIONSHIP WITH BJP: The Muslim respondents felt the TRS has a covert relationship with the BJP and expressed their disappointment. There, however, was no major resentment as they chose to be indifferent to this.

SETTLERS FROM ANDHRA: In Khammam and parts of Medak and Nizamabad, settlers from Andhra play a significant role. In 2014 elections most of them voted for the TRS and even the ruling party provided space to the leaders from the section. However, during the 2018 election run-up, the chief minister in a couple of his speeches used highly intemperate language against N Chandrababu Naidu. As the speeches were fresh when the team was in the field, people from among the settlers took strong objection and said they may have to think twice about their support to TRS. Some settlers said the CM should not have spoken in that tenor. The settlers are more in favour of TDP and also questioned where the TRS would have been without the TDP.

OPINION ON LOCAL MLA: Most of the people were more concerned about the behaviour, relationship and performance of their own MLA than the overall performance of the government. Those MLAs who maintained good relationship with them, who were helpful and who brought welfare & development schemes to their village were seen as better leaders, irrespective of their party affiliation. In this way, most newcomers, particularly first time MLAs of TRS were dismissed as non-performers.

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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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