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A Look At India And Pakistan’s Economic Journey Since Independence

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The events unfolding before us clearly reflect India’s diplomatic prowess: its growing clout in the world order and a renewed confidence in conducting affairs on its terms and to its advantage. The way India’s move of abrogating Article 370 and change in status quo of the most militarized region of the world has been taken up by the international community reflects India’s leverage in the world arena vis-a-vis Pakistan.

Among many factors, one of the most important factors at play here is the economic leverage that India has over its western neighbour. Addressing his people, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan told his fellow citizens to not live in “fool’s paradise” and that “Muslim Ummah” (Islamic Community) might not back Pakistan as India is a big market and “many people” have invested. There is indeed a stark difference with India being the fastest growing major economy, while on the other hand, Pakistan is seeking its 22nd IMF bailout. The complete divergence in the two country’s economic path began in the 1990s when India went to the IMF seeking its first bailout package and Pakistan its 11th.

Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru (Left); Lord Mountbatten (Middle); M.A. Jinnah (Right). Source: Wikimedia commons

When India got independence and Pakistan was created, both were equally poor, miserable and somewhat clueless with the same level of socio-economic development. Independent and divided, both had their own share of economic advantages. While India received a larger share of urban centres and industrial infrastructure; Pakistan was agriculturally at a better position with a fertile West Pakistan blessed with the mighty Indus river system and East Pakistan with its plantation economy, being one of the leading producers of tea and jute in the world.

Both independent countries adopted a somewhat similar model of Soviet-inspired centralised, state-controlled economy with limited participation of the private sector. During the period from independence to the end of the 1960s, Pakistan’s economic growth outperformed India by a considerable margin. Both embarked on a nationalisation spree; nationalising various sectors of the economy. This was India under PM Indra Gandhi and Pakistan under PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Due to the large scale nationalisation of industries, banks, insurance companies, educational institutions, the growth rate of Pakistan declined drastically. But the most significant blow was the secession of East Pakistan and its emergence as present-day Bangladesh. East Pakistan constituted a major share of Pakistan’s exports.

Death Of Democracy In Pakistan

Zia-ul-Haq (military dictator of Pakistan) Source: Wikimedia Commons

Fundamental changes occurred after the ascendancy of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, following the military coup and subsequent execution of PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. With religion becoming a significant element of almost all the aspects of Pakistani society, from governance to education; it fueled the sectarian divide in the multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic Islamic country.

Pakistan at this time participated in the campaign to overthrow the Soviet Union that had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Pakistan, with the U.S. aided and armed the Afghan mujahideen which subsequently resulted in the ouster of the Soviets from Afghanistan. Due to this war, Pakistan suffered a huge influx of Afghan refugees.

One would think that war and sustaining millions of refugees would have taken a toll on Pakistan’s economy, but it received huge aid from its then ally, the United States of America. Pakistan did suffer differently. The war exacerbated sectarianism and led to the spread of violence, terror and drug abuse with its own implications on the country’s economy. India during this period—with its messy yet functioning democracy—grew at the same pace as it had since independence.

Economic Divergence

P.V. Narsimha Rao was the PM & Dr. Manmohan Singh India’s Finance Minister when government decided to open India’s economy.

Towards the end of the 1980s, both countries faced extreme economic hardships. Due to the ballooning Balance of Payment (BoP) crisis, India went to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout in 1991. Pakistan during the same period went to the IMF twice, in 1988 and 1993, for its 10th & 11th bailouts respectively. This was the time when the two identical countries completely diverged in their economic paths.

India under PM P.V. Narsimha Rao, with Dr Manmohan Singh as the Finance Minister, opened India’s economy; removed trade restrictions on the private sector, reduced the role of government in various sectors and removed trade restrictions between India and other countries. With time and further reforms, India became the 2nd fastest-growing major economy till 2015, and since then is the fastest-growing major economy in the world. Though Pakistan had embarked on the liberalisation journey earlier, it couldn’t catch up with its eastern neighbour owing to the huge political turmoil it faced from 1988 to 1999, that saw nine governments (both elected and unelected). The process has continued with not a single elected PM having completed his tenure.

Hence, economic growth and subsequent socio-economic development were hit by political disturbance, violence, terrorism and sectarianism in the case of Pakistan. While in India, the democracy-development nexus—supported by a well-functioning civil society—bolstered its economic development.

India’s democracy and economy have given huge dividends and played an immense role in determining the policies of other countries vis-a-vis India. Hence, it should be clearly understood that any mishandling of the two elements can be highly detrimental, both nationally and internationally.

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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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