Is There A Solution To The Political Crisis Facing This Country?

Dharam Singh is a chowkidar with whom I get along very well. Almost every evening I have a conversation with him on sundry topics. Out of curiosity, I asked him, what he thought about Modi being a chowkidar “Sir, I would love to be a chowkidar like him”, he replied. Surely why not I thought, Dharam Singh was absolutely right. Modi is anything but a chowkidar.

Like Shakespeare said “Rose by any other name, still smells the same”, call him Pradhan Mantri, Pradhan Sevak, Prime Minister or Chowkidar, he has SPG security, hobnobs with the high and mighty, a Boeing 747 at his disposal, he gets a bombproof BMW worth crores – for which he neither bothers about the fuel, maintenance or drivers salary. What a life, I wish I could afford something like that!

In contrast Dharam Singh, sits in front of the lift, wears a uniform, carries a big stick in his hand, is faulted for anything and everything that goes wrong in the vicinity of the building, braving the vagaries of the weather and has a cycle for transport. If there is a cigarette butt lying around, Dharam Singh what is this junk doing here?, Did you ask the sweeper to clean the butt? Yes sir, no sir, I don’t know sir, I will take care in future sir, sorry sir are his usual replies, but not so with Modi.

The current administration is just trying to fool the people of this country into lulling in their belief that the rulers of Hindustan are as poor as they are. I am no better than the chowkidar in your neighbourhood, I am as illiterate and as poorly thought out as he is. We are all in the same boat, but we will sail along, there is nothing to worry. This is not the narrative people of India want but instead, want to see a healthy one to one debate on issues plaguing the nation.

Can Modi and Rahul Gandhi come together on a street corner or in a television studio and be openly grilled on all subjects from domestic issues like education, women safety, monetary and fiscal policy, border incursions, defence to foreign policy? This will never happen with the present dispensation at the top. They are as clueless as they can get. They need their cronies, hangers-on and subject matter experts (aka retired bureaucrats) to coach, prompt, give them cues and practically put words in their mouth to any questions asked, such is the depth of incompetence of our ruling class.

The current administration is just trying to fool the people of this country into lulling in their belief that the rulers of Hindustan are as poor as they are. Image via Getty

But the real issues that plague the nation are left out of the narrative. Seventy years after independence with a growing population which is impatiently aspiring for better things in life is being stymied by a group of people who are intent on keeping the population at subsistence level. Schools that do not prepare them for the university, colleges that do not prepare them for jobs, careers where there is little or no growth. An orchestra which is horribly out of tune, making noise rather than music.

It is in this background that narratives like “I am also chowkidar”, “who robbed the nation in Rafale deal“, “cow politics” etc crops up – because the political class is out of step with the hopes and aspirations of its own people – which it does not bother to understand. Does it really matter to a college graduate whether the person next door eats beef, meat or chicken, or whether the Indian Air Force got 36 Rafale fighter jets or Mirage 2000? But what actually matters is where he would be in the next five years? Will it be profitable to pursue further studies or seek employment in the corporate/public sector? What are the choices in life?

With India having a large proportion of its population which is under-25 issues that are of critical and crucial importance are swept under the rug and instead non-issues and irrelevant topics are intensely debated, where filibustering is the name of the game.

There is no solution to the political crisis facing this country, but change is on the horizon. Established parties are increasingly being challenged by non-entities like Kanhaiya Kumar, Jignesh Mewani, Shah Faesal, Shehla Rashid and Arvind Kejriwal. It will not be long before the dominoes begin to fall and fall it will. If Lehmann Brothers has taught us anything, it is this – “There is no such thing as too big to fail”. As Jeff Bezos had wisely commented “Amazon is not too big to fail” and he went on to add “In fact, I predict Amazon will one day fail”.  Empires have come and empires have gone, countries were formed and countries have ceased to exist.  Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great are just memories. Is the political class listening?

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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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