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From Decreasing Press Freedom To Farmer Suicides, How Right Is ‘The Right’ For India?

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Since the BJP won the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, a lot has changed in the political, economic, and social front of India.

It all started with changing the name of the erstwhile planning commission to NITI Aayog. Similarly, lots of schemes that were introduced since Independence were changed—not their function, but their names. A lot of government schemes were renamed. For example, the Indira Awas Yojana, which was launched in 1996 to provide housing to the rural poor, was renamed and launched as the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Similarly, the most hyped scheme of this government, “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”, which was launched on October 2, 2014, was the renaming of the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. So, on the scheme front, nothing very new was introduced by the government. Instead, they just advertised the old schemes with a new name. On ground, not much work was done for their implementation either.

Some plans were launched by the government which were ostensibly good. However, hasty implementation without appropriate research failed to give a result. For example, the Ujjwala Yojana, which intended to bring smoke-free cooking to the rural poor. But it removed the Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) subsidy which was provided to people living above the poverty line by the previous government. It also failed to meet its goal because, even after the implementation of the scheme, 80% of the rural population still uses biomass fuel, according to a report by TERI.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST), which was planned by the Congress, but was haphazardly launched by the BJP, showed the loss in economic growth of the country. With losses to many micro-, small-, and medium-enterprises.

Demonetisation was also one of the major failures of the present government, as it damaged the GDP of the country with the failure of getting black money into the system.

The government also failed miserably in generating employment in India. A Times of India report published in March 2018, says, that nearly, 31 million people are unemployed in India. A report by Huffington Post mentioned that unemployment is highest in India in the last 20 years.

The government also interfered in the prestigious higher education institutions of India. Assigning Gajendra Chauhan as the chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). which led to protests as he was not esteemed enough to hold the position, but was doing so only to change the basic study structure of FTII. A similar interference happened in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), where students were arrested over a doctored video and JNU was called as the Institute of Anti-Nationals. It was done to tarnish the image of the institute and thus, muzzling the voice of intellectuals.

Press Freedom Index and Corruption Perception Index of India also scored low. Murder of social activists and journalists like M. M. Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, Narendra Dabholkar and death threats and the experiences of other journalists like Ravish Kumar, and the resignations of Punya Prasoon Vajpayee, Abhisar Sharma, all show how the government wants to curb the press freedom.

The defence mechanism of India is also under constant struggle without enough arms and ammunition. An army official claimed that they were even not being provided proper food. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) claims they do not have enough projects. In such circumstances, a private company, Reliance, was made in-charge of Rafale deal and not the HAL, which is the responsibility of the government. India has also decreased its expenditure on defence, says an Economic Times report.

Source: AP Photo/Deepak Sharma.

The agricultural sector is also failing miserably. There has been an increase in protests after farmer suicides, with no appropriate response from the government.

In this government’s reign, the social security of the weaker sections of society has also decreased, with an increase in mob lynching, rape, and fake encounters.

Democratic freedom has also decreased. India slipped from the 32nd rank in the Global Democracy Index to 42nd in the year 2018.

Politics of India has stooped to a new low, where the main concern is not unemployment or increasing pollution, but that MLAs or MPs now favour the stronger sections of society. Even prestigious bodies like the CBI, the courts, and the Election Commission of India are all, in my opinion, promoting RSS ideologies.

Thus, the BJP failed miserably as a government, and has made India backward again, in all aspects, socially, economically, democratically, and politically.

Featured Image source: Getty Images.
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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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