Here’s How People In Mizoram Ensure Elections Are A Peaceful Affair Not Driven By Money

While the rest of the state is asking the Election Commission to increase the limit of election expenditure, Mizoram appeals to reduce it. But why?

A piece of positive news has emerged from Mizoram in the midst of elections due to the increasing use of money force and the challenges faced by the Election Commission to curb the election expenditure of the candidates.

The limit for the election expenditure of candidates in the state is Rs 20 lakh (eight lakh less than the rest of the states). But leaders of different parties have demanded the Commission to limit it to eight lakh rupees only. Most of the candidates had to struggle to spend between Rs 10 and 20 lakh in the recent assembly elections.

Election sources say that while the rest of the country receives requests for increasing the expenditure on election expenses, Mizoram is the only state to appeal for a reduction in the expenditure. Former Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat also said in his affidavit recently, “All the candidates in Mizoram say that they do not have to spend so much money in the election. Therefore, this amount should be limited to eight lakhs.”

Armstrong Pame, IAS officer of Nagaland Cadre, who was the supervisor of the Mizoram assembly during the Mizoram assembly elections recently, said in a Facebook post, “My experience as a supervisor in Mizoram was very disillusioned. There the elections were peaceful and there was no disturbance. “

His post, written on December 2, has received more than two thousand likes. Pame says, “Many candidates could not find any way to spend more than 10 lakh rupees or more.” They say that the people of Mizoram want to ensure that due to the shortage of election expenses, no qualified and better candidate is left out of the election.

In the electoral atmosphere, leaders from other parts of the country visiting Mizoram might be surprised. Here, all the parties, who are fielded in the electoral fray, adhere literally to the Model Code of Conduct. But the credit goes to the Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF), sponsored by the church.

MPF is more effective and powerful than the Election Commission here. It would be right to say that in case of the code of conduct, the guidelines laid out on his behalf prove to be the stone rack. This time the picture was no different. On the 28th of the last month, for the election of 40 assembly seats in the state, at least one of the MPF members were present in the state campaign along with all the candidates. In the elections of 2008 and 2013, the MPF had made a common platform for promotion in every area. Every party in the area used to campaign or rally on the same platform from time to time. Then the candidates were banned from going from house to house. But this time the MPF had given permission to promote it by going home from home.

Due to the guidelines of the MPF, there are no posters and banners in any part of the state including the capital, Aizawl. Similarly, it is rare to see the political rallies with loudspeakers like in other parts of the country. By the way, it was not always like that. After getting Mizoram’s status, all the candidates in general usually organised community banquets in their respective areas. During that time there was also a tradition of distributing money in the voters. But the state’s powerful organisation Young Mizo Association had banned it in the ’90s.

Like every time the organisation had issued some guidelines for political parties and candidates and their impact was clearly visible. In the remaining states of the country where elections are held with the help of money and muscle, it can be the reason for the defeat of deserving candidates. In Mizoram, the electoral moral is different from the other parts of the country. There is no noise, it is the effect of the MPF’s guidelines.

Armstrong was surprised at the money spent on elections of the Mizoram People’s Forum (MPF) organised by the church. The representative of the organisation lived with all the candidates and their supporters during the election campaign. His motive was to ensure that unfair methods or money force could not be used to woo voters.

Pame, while comparing Mizoram with his duty as a supervisor in West Bengal, has written that no party or community banquet was organised before voting in this northeastern state. State voters do not want to drink tea from any political party’s money. Says Pame: “Mizoram people take voting very seriously. There is no crowd of thousands more than one thousand and a thousand people in the meeting of a star campaigner.”

Mizoram citizens are not surprised at this, the voters are accustomed to it since the beginning. But the leaders, supervisors and other people coming from outside are shocked at the fact that how the election campaign went on peacefully. Other states and statesmen should take lessons from Mizoram on what an ideal electorate should look like.

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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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