Can India Use Entrepreneurship To Build National Character?

Last week, a young leader, who doesn’t require any introduction, named Feroz Varun Gandhi, wrote an article in a leading English daily and underlined that this government has seen more  farmers’ suicide than the previous ones. The sidelined status of Mr. Gandhi, too, was highlighted; he had the opportunity to do some serious research about the core issues of the Indian economy, and has focused on coming up with sustaining solutions for paving the path of ‘Bharat’ to prosperity.

I think it is a great start when a youth leader does some serious research to bring to centre stage the ignored issue of rural development and devolution of power to local governments. Intellectual debates on these issues are where empathy is most needed. We are discussing administrative reforms, economic reforms, and social reforms, but we really lack an aptitude for reforms for people in power, without which even democracy provides only a slim chance of intervention.

‘Minimum government and Maximum governance’ is a rhetoric which PM Modi attached to his office as a tagline and hence made comprehensive and deep interventions to empower panchayats. At this juncture of Indian democracy there is no other way through which maximum governance is possible. Keeping the vast size of the Indian economy and democracy in mind, even the Centre has limited penetrative capacities. This is why our Constitution lists all services immediately proximate to citizens as state and Central responsibilities. These are majorly on aspects affecting the daily life of the citizens in ordinary conditions. Hence, even if the Centre wants maximum governance with all its will and resources through the empowerment of local governments, it’s not possible to do it exclusively. The decisive role in this radical vision is of individual states. The 73rd and 74th amendment of the Constitution of India have used astute words to make states figure out their own contextual ways to empower local governing bodies. But repeated analysis of local governments in India have underlined that a lot more needs to be done.

The whole issue is of aptitude, network, real time monitoring, and appropriate decision making to dispose problems.

The whole world condemned the accidents of 9/11 and 26/11, and we also highlighted our learnings from these. Today, India is proud of being in a position of having no such attack after that. Why? Because we have constantly updated our system with decisive, emotional and analytical activities, and with comprehensive and deep networks of security agencies. Most of these agencies existed earlier also but now they have attained a collaborative approach to operations. We have established hotline connections with neighboring countries which increase the flow of information and help us respond to any situation, properly, in a short span of time. All this appears easy and possible only because we have increased the network and cohesion of functionary bodies. The same is needed in the war against poverty. Until we increase the outreach of operating agencies (both top-down and bottom-up), it is quite tough to keep up with our changing world.

Now when a government makes its decision, citizens are also in favour of keeping up with the same pace. The agitation of the base of the pyramid of the economy is nothing more than the impatience taking place in the brain and heart. Farmers shouldn’t have to march to Parliament just to be heard by a government chosen by themselves. It’s a situation which takes the country back by decades, and makes all sensitive citizens introspect about why the Prime Minister of the country is unable to make way for making local governing bodies that function as nodal agencies, and provide personalised attention for groups of citizens.

The academia, the bureaucracy and the government itself keep saying that citizens should participate in local governance, but how? No states have made any compulsory provisions (for citizen action) to facilitate a paradigm shift. It should be taken into account that India is a nation which has been broken at each level by foreign rulers, and today has a significant nexus of politics and crime. The delays in our justice system make life difficult for common citizens. In that condition, how can one envision a break in the power nexus?

The sense of sharing power comes from humility and responsibility to future generations. But this humility decreases when you are made to suffer for questioning a decision-controlling group.

It is a fact that when a lower bureaucrat starts following their own mind, and makes decisions, they simply break the barricade which imposes followership. That’s where the problem starts for the bosses. It is also concentric to the start of the ignorance to the bigger cause, the very reason why bureaucracy exists. This condition triggers responses and reactions to persons rather than that to situations. This is why there are minimal outcomes of our bureaucratic investments. Excluding some examples, it is not an extreme statement to say that district level administration generally works as a trouble shooting agency. That’s it.

We are in a situation where India is climbing up the list of nations with considerable ease of doing business, secure citizens, increased manufacturing, export, and higher stakes in international power, but is there progress on all major indicators of economic development when poverty is also increasing?

It is undoubted that the whole nation is deeply affected by the push for entrepreneurship by this government. But to let the trend of entrepreneurship flourish, there are some prerequisites which are indispensable. It’s tough to prioritise them but I am quite sure that the rule of law is of utmost importance. Entrepreneurship needs sustenance, and it may flourish only if human capital is not insecure about life and property. And to ensure a flawless, quick, and responsive security system for citizens, there is no other way for the system but to respond to the situation and prevent itself from being the curator of these situations. Inside and outside the system, we have been partially successful in managing our vast human energy in productive way.

It should be noted that an enterprise requires collaboration with different players. at different levels, and all layers of collaboration must be somehow facilitated by the government. If there is a lack of collaboration in the facilitating agency, it’s quite tough for citizens to think of generating jobs.

I think to change the stereotyped narrative of being privileged by being part of government (to the renaissance of being privileged by generating jobs) needs major proactive facilitation of the powerful system on ground, while upholding the rule of law and without compromise in it. That’s where India’s key to raise its national character lies.

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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 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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