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BJP’s Manifesto Unveils Some Positive Developments But Also Some Concerns

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Indian elections have, over a period of time, become tantamount to selling dreams. Pre-poll promises are smartly crafted and then a path of retraction is adopted or more time is solicited.

The same holds true with the saffron party taking into account an impartial stocktaking of its track record. The party has come a long way in relying on one-man’s charismatic leadership despite the overt failures committed by him.

A cursory glance over the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) manifesto unveils some positive developments in the right direction such as the party’s pledge towards doubling down the income of the farmers and giving them short-term loans at a zero interest rate and investing a whopping ₹25 lakh crore to enhance the productivity of the farm sector. Undoubtedly, these are progressive developments but not enough to address the existing serious farm distress.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with BJP president Amit Shah release BJP’s manifesto for the upcoming general elections, at BJP headquarters on April 8, 2019 in New Delhi, India. Pitching nationalism as its inspiration, the BJP manifesto for the high-stakes Lok Sabha polls promised Monday NRC in different parts of the country to push out infiltrators and zero tolerance to terror while reiterating its pet causes construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya and scrapping of Article 370, 35A dealing with special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The party manifesto also announced 75 milestones for India to achieve at its 75 years of freedom in 2022 under heads of agriculture, youth and education, infrastructure, railways, health, economy, good governance, inclusive development, women empowerment and cultural heritage. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Indian farmers, in my view, need a sustained flow of income and a limited income generated with farm produce is not enough for them to meet up their daily expenses. The Congress manifesto which vows to put back the essential emphasis on 100 days (and now has been proposed to 150 days of the guaranteed work) guaranteed work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) and its flagship NYAY (minimum income guarantee scheme) scheme, which promises an unconditional cash flow to the accounts of the poorest families constituting the bottom 20% (five crore) of the populace, is a welcome step and will go a long way in alleviating the farm misery.

But this needs an honest implementation as India lacks a robust delivery mechanism.

Besides, the political parties need to focus on long term solutions such as bringing industrialization closer to the hinterland and promoting and financing the small enterprises in rural areas especially the remote ones which don’t have access to the markets.

Another area which is not adequately addressed by the BJP is unemployment. The poll document suggests that the party will create job opportunities for the youth, encourage start-ups, grant them with Mudra loans, and encourage them to participate in urban governance through large-scale internship programs. But a brief analysis of the BJP’s current stint would disclose the failures of the party on all fronts.

One could take a cue from poorly implemented demonetization of November 2016 and hastily introduced Goods and Services Tax (GST) in July 2017 and how they led to the destruction of the small businesses in India.

An overall analysis of the BJP manifesto reveals some disturbing facts: the Party relies heavily on its hyper-nationalism, majoritarian Hindu culture, right-wing ideology, it’s silent on radical groups who were on a free spree and never shied away in disturbing peace and tranquillity. The party maintains a studious silence on how to deal with those people who openly lynch anyone on the suspicion of the storing beef or transporting the cattle from one place to the other.

The manifesto reiterates its old positions on the contentious issues such as Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and abrogation of “Article 370” and annulment of Article 35 (A) and maintaining a ‘no entry rule’ for menstruating women in Sabarimala Temple and the introduction of Universal Civil Code. These are radical issues which allow the Saffron party to stay afloat even in adverse circumstances. These are the issues which are often flagged off by the Party to take refuge against its failures on socio-economic indicators and its dereliction to rein-in radical elements.

Despite being aware of adverse turmoil it will create in Valley, the BJP has reiterated that it would like to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP stand, in this regard, has brought divisive opposition parties in the Valley together and forced them to issue a stern warning against any such move.

In her scathing remark, former Chief Minister Mehboba Mufti said, “J&K is explosive. If you ignite it, neither J&K would remain neither India. The entire region will burn.”

In his statement, the J&K Congress President Ghulam Ahmad Mir said: “The BJP has nothing to offer to the people and now they are raking these issues. Our party has given the Article 370 and we are going to defend it at all the costs.”

But the saffron party will not shy away in manifesting its strict, militaristic and harsh posture towards the special status of J&K in order to gain political mileage in its core constituency of upper caste Hindus.

Similarly, the BJP’s manifesto has shown its willingness to continue with its controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 despite all the disturbances, turmoil and agitation it had created in the northeast region and Assam state.

To sum up, I sincerely wish that the BJP, if voted to power, should fulfil its constitutional mandate and work honestly for inclusive growth and cultural harmony to take India to the newer horizons of the development. India ought to remain loyal for its constitutional morality and democratic credentials.

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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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