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A Dying Old Man’s Open Letter To The Modi Government 2.0

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My days are numbered, son. The doctor says I’ve got a month, at most. But, having lived a fulfilling life, I have come to peace with its culmination.

A dying man speaks nothing but the truth, for he has no obligation to either fear or favour. I have just been told by my granddaughter that you have been elected to power again. Congratulations on that.

Though I did not necessarily agree with the way you led the country for the last five years, now that the people have entrusted their faith in you, yet again, I accept you wholeheartedly. You are my PM, as much as of anyone who has voted for you.

But son, I have some advice for you.

It pains me to see that the social fabric of the country is in tatters. When you first came to power on 16th May 2014, I was hopeful that you would rid the country of the ulcer of corruption and take it on the rosy path of development, which you did, to a large extent, for the first three years.

In 2017, for the first time in 15 years, your party was voted to power in India’s biggest state U.P. My granddaughter came to know from the enlightened TV news channels that people had voted on your name, rather than the party’s. However, by then, she confided in me, the catchphrase of development had gradually been pushed to the wilderness and you started talking about some donkeys. I really appreciated your compassion, for I thought that no prior Prime Minister had focused so much on India’s rich wildlife. But I failed to hear about it ever again post the elections.

It came as a shock to me when you chose Yogi Adityanath as the UP CM. I believe, a major shift in your party’s approach came at that point. Development, clearly, was no longer your primary poll agenda. This deeply pained me. Not because I had anything against Yogi Adityanath, but there were several other far more accomplished BJP leaders with an administrative track record in the state. Why then, did you decide to go with Yogi?

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Instances of mob lynching and violent cow vigilantism then started sprouting in the news. I was assured that you would condemn this strongly and ensure that the law and order in the country are restored, but you chose silence. The evil elements got more and more strength out of this deafening silence and amped up violence all across the country.

I still hold the belief that you helped India take some long strides in development. Although mountains were made out of numerous molehill developmental projects, still, I found your work, in select domains, substantially decisive than the previous regimes. Possibly, it was your majority that enabled you to take some tough calls, some of which did not reap the anticipated results, I was told.

But son, all the development you did or could have done was outweighed by the venom that has been spewed in society. Remember, the country can do with less development, but once it stands divided on communal grounds, the damage is irreparable and has a bearing on all walks of life.

So, now that you have come to power again, focus on development and development alone. The new generation, I have seen, wants nothing but that. Your shenanigans of visiting shrines and donning various costumes might not help you garner votes. After casting her vote, my granddaughter told me that she had voted for the BJP this time, not so much on the basis of development that you had been able to accomplish, but in the absence of another headstrong statesman ready to lead the country.

A dying old man's open letter to Modi government 2.0

I have lived long enough to see regimes come and go. Nothing lasts forever. Regimes change, Prime Ministers change, but the country remains. And as the Pradhan Sevak, you have this responsibility of ensuring that the social fabric of this great nation is not tampered with.

So go on, with the majority that the public has bestowed upon you, work, as I am told you do, but fulfil this dying man’s last wish. Do not widen the communal rift, I beg of you. Create a conducive environment for healthy discussion. Listen to those who disagree with you, they are not your enemies. Only true friends and guardians of the country have the courage to go against the stream. Respect your allies. Consider delegating some power to other worthy individuals. Channelise this energy into something constructive, in the development of the country, and all of us 130 million Indians will stand strongly beside you.

May God bless you with wisdom, son.

Jai Hind!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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