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This Year, Tell The Government What You Think Of These 9 Problems In Indian Society

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SansadUnplugged logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #SansadUnplugged, a campaign by Young Leaders for Active Citizenship India and Youth Ki Awaaz where your elected representatives engage directly with you on key policy issues that matter. Find out more and engage with those you vote for here.

Road rage, high medical costs, respect for workers, and crimes against women – these are but some of the things we ought to have left behind in 2018, as we make our way into a brand new year.

But how do we make that happen? One of the biggest tools we have at our disposal is the democratic process of Bills in Parliament. A precursor to a law, many Bills introduced by Private Members (of parliament) aim to solve pressing social issues in India. The sad part, though, is that we do not often hear of theme. But let’s talk about nine Bills we should definitely be aware of.

1: For Children Battling Mental Health Issues

In 2016, The Compulsory Mental Healthcare Counselling Facilities in Government Schools Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Kirit Solanki of the BJP in Gujarat, this Bill aims to provide mental health support to children, especially in village areas. Solanki’s identifies early childhood trauma like domestic violence or sexual abuse as the focal point, and recommends that government schools provide a space for children to open up, heal, shed the stigma, and receive the care they need.

Currently, the state of mental healthcare in India is, pardon my French, completely whack. Not only do most people efface disorders with ineffective advice like “snap out of it”, but many will first approach faith healers instead of professionals. Both of these approaches deny a person proper care.

12.5% of children aged 16 and under suffer from a mental health difficulty. It should be top priority to address this before they hit adulthood. No one should have to carry these issues their whole life.

Read the full Bill here. Solanki has drafted 31 Private Member Bills, a handful of which are related to health care. Tweet to him at @drkiritpsolanki and share your thoughts about the Bill!

2: For Sex Workers

The Sex Workers (Rehabilitation and Social Security) Bill was introduced in 2015 by Lok Sabha member Poonam Mahajan. Challenging society’s malicious attitudes towards this community, the BJP minister from Maharashtra decided to be in their corner. Mahajan recommends the setting up of five-member Rehabilitation Boards (at the Centre, and in each state), of which two will be sex workers. The Bill has detailed provisions on health care, legal aid, education, skill development, and more.

Read the full Bill here. Tweet to MP Poonam Mahajan at @poonam_mahajan and share your thoughts about the Bill!

3: For Acid Attack Survivors

The Acid (Control) Bill was also drafted by Solanki in 2014. This Bill aims to curb the sale of acid, which has so far been easily procured and used as weapon against women (who make up 80% of persons targeted). While the crime itself is not new, recent years have seen alarming numbers of cases being registered. Human Rights Law Network, a non-profit organisation, puts it at 1,000 attacks a year. In recent times, Laxmi, a fiery young woman, whose jealous boyfriend threw acid on her, has been raising awareness about this crime. It was high time we had a separate law to address it.

Solanki’s Bill seeks to address this horrifying reality. It draws inspiration from countries like Bangladesh, where the Acid Control Act is in force. Solanki recommends appointing “a Controller of Acids to control and regulate the sale and distribution of acids”.

Read the full Bill here. Tweet to @drkiritpsolanki and with your thoughts and comments!

4: For Our Sensitive Online Data

The Data (Privacy and Protection) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by Baijayant Panda in 2017. Of the Biju Janata Dal, Odisha, Panda’s Bill highlights a largely invisible threat that surrounds us all today – the unauthorised possession and use of the personal data we share through digital services.

With every post and selfie and email, so many of us putting ourselves out there on social media, and even governments services moving online, the risk of data being misused rises with every single day. The 25-page draft leans heavily upon the Right To Privacy judgement, outlining the practices for data collection, transfer storage, and deletion. The process will be managed through the setting up of a Data Privacy Authority.

Read the full Bill here. Tweet to Baijayant Panda at @PandaJay and share your thoughts about his Bill!

5: For Working Fathers (And Gender Equality!)

In 2017, The Paternity Benefit Bill emerged from Congress MP Rajeev Satav’s own experiences as a working father. He drafted and introduced the Bill in 2017 to complement the Maternity Benefit Bill. Satav favours an equivalent for fathers, first to take the load off mothers, and also to encourage fathers to do their fair share of childcare. If passed, this Bill would bring India at par with countries like Australia, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden, where Parental Leave is a wonderful reality.

Read the full Bill here. Tweet your feedback to MP Rajeev Satav at @RAJEEVSATAV.

6: For The Environment

Everywhere we look, our roads are choked with plastic bags, wrappers, discarded styrofoam cups. It’s an annoyingly common sight to see someone roll down their car window and toss out trash. Something has to be done.

The Bio-Degradable Packaging Materials (Compulsory Use in Packing Commodities) Bill was introduced last year by a member of the BJP in Delhi and Lok Sabha MP, Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma. With the health of the environment at its core, its objective is to “curb the usage of plastic and such other non-degradable material in packaging”. The Bill will cover all packed items under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, which includes cattle fodder, coal and its derivatives, automobiles parts, textiles, medicines, and foodstuffs, to name a few.

The menace of plastic waste is a formidable one. Verma writes in his Bill: “[16,000] tonnes of plastic waste per day in the country, out of which, about [9,000] tonnes is recycled, while [6,137] tonnes remains uncollected and littered. Of the total waste, nearly 43% arises from packaging material”. We really should do ourselves a favour and back this Bill!

Read the full Bill here. Tweet to MP Parvesh Verma at @p_sahibsingh and share your thoughts about the Bill!

7: For Dignified Work

The Domestic Workers (Decent Working Conditions) Bill was yet another Bill drafted by MP Solanki in 2015. It seeks to put in place healthier and just processes for a profession that has long been unregulated, informal sector work. Present conditions make workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In our fast-paced society, we entrust domestic workers with the job of keeping our homes functioning round the clock. Don’t they deserve a safe work environment? A way to ensure that, Solanki recommends, is an employment agreement. This document will formally contain the name and address of the employer and of the domestic worker, the address of the usual workplace or workplaces, duration and nature of work, work hours, paid leave, and more.

The Bill takes into account many of the demands of domestic workers organisations and aims to manifest them.

Read the full Bill here. Tweet to MP Kirit Solanki at @drkiritpsolanki and share your thoughts about the Bill!

8: For Women’s Health

In 2017, The Breast Cancer (Awareness and Free Treatment) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by National Congress Party member from Maharashtra, Supriya Sule. Through it, she intends to put in place processes for breast cancer awareness, prevention, screening, and medical treatment, through the combined efforts of governments and local aid authorities. With one in 22 women being diagnosed in their lifetime. As scary as cancer is, the prospect of bearing the medical costs is daunting in itself. Between 2000 and 2015, the cost of treatment rose from ₹1,50,000 to ₹6,00,000. The base cost of single mammogram is usually ₹2,000. To provide those affected by breast cancer with free treatment is a huge step forward!

Read the full Bill here. Tweet to MP Supriya Sule at @supriya_sule and share your thoughts about the Bill!

9: For Safer Roads

A complete disregard for road safety is a trademark of our society, sadly. But that can change! The Road Safety And Protection Of Vulnerable Road Users Bill was introduced in 2015 by Husain Dalwai, of the Congress in Maharashtra. It goes beyond standard road safety practices of wearing seatbelts and obeying traffic rules. Introduced in the Rajya Sabha, it lays down strict rules for how many people are allowed to travel in one vehicle or on motorcycles and ensuring emergency vehicles (ambulances) have smooth passage. For anxious child-carers, and everyone plagued by angry, bumpy, congested roads, this Bill also details child restraint systems in vehicles, and punishment for bad road design, construction, and maintenance.

Read the full Bill here. Tweet your thoughts and comments to us at @youthkiawaaz and @YlacIndia.

With so many Bills like these still pending in Parliament, we ought to strike while the iron is hot. The disappointing truth is that so many Bills lapse, without even being discussed! Yup. That’s what happened to 97% of all Bills introduced between 2009 and 2014 in. We the people can play an active role in the democracy we take so much pride in by directly engaging with Bills, and the representatives who have drafted them.

When Bills are open for public review, isn’t it a good opportunity to let MPs know our thoughts and suggestions, and even receive our support?

So this year, take part in building a better future. Make this the New Year’s resolution you stick to in 2019!

Tell us your thoughts and observations on this Bill. Your article will contribute to the way your elected representatives are presenting bills, defining policies and creating change in the Parliament. Response article will be shared with respective Member of Parliament, and in many cases - suggestions are included in the drafting of future policies.

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  1. Dr Kirit P Solanki, Ahmedabad West: Active parliamentarian, vocal on development issues, seeks third term | | Citizen Matters

    […] Solanki has been in the news for several of the private member bills that he has introduced including – The Compulsory Mental […]

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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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