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A Battery Of Promises: Modi’s Roadmap For Combating Climate Change

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On September 23, 2019, in his bilingual speech at the UN Climate Action Summit, held in New York, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed leaders of the world and called for a “comprehensive approach” that must include, according to him, “education, values, lifestyle to development, and philosophy.”

Beginning his speech by congratulating the UN Secretary-General by reminding him that he was a recipient of the ‘Champion of the Earth’ award, Modi expressed that “behavioural change” is required to tackle climate change. He reminded world leaders that India has been respectful of nature forever; its preservation and conservation form core values of Indian living. 

Speaking on the lines of a quote by Gandhi, he added that “Need, not greed has been our guiding principle.” And that that he hasn’t come to “talk only,” instead wants to present a “behavioural change plan and a roadmap.” A charmer of a speaker that he is, it almost seemed like a magician doing his tricks. He went on to deliver one promise after the other.

‘Je Promets’ (I Promise!)

Promise 1: Increase in production of renewable energy. He said that India will not only achieve its renewable energy production target 175 GW, by 2022 but is committed to making it 450 GW.

Promise 2: Promoting e-mobility. Increase of biofuel mixing in petrol and diesel.

Promise 3:Jal Jeevan’ mission water conservation mission will attract an investment of $50 billion. 

Though no one knows what to make out of this statement of his, “We believe that an ounce of practice is worth more than a ton of preaching,”; when one knows that for the second time in a row, the Prime Minister is making promises which he seldom delivers, and his ensemble of ministers says that those were just ‘jumlas’ post-elections. 

But, at the UN, no one was there to present “actionable” recommendations to combat climate change, as requested by the UN Secretary-General. Each one had his/her own campaign promotion in their own style. Ours started with a ‘Namaste’ and self-eulogy.

Keeping that, and my personal animosity toward the Prime Minister aside, I was looking for ways to find out whether his big claims were practical. Was there actually a “roadmap” to achieving these goals? India will invest $50 billion on water conservation as part of the ‘Jal Jeevan’ mission. Okay! Is there any roadmap for this too? How will 3.5 lakh crore, the Indian equivalent of the above amount, be managed? 

But One Knows That Promises Are Meant To Be Broken

On my quest to finding answers to these difficult, yet important, questions, I stumbled upon a fantastic analysis by Foreign Policy: Can India Give Up Coal? 

Authors, in this article, quite aptly argue that though there has been a surge toward production and usage of solar energy, “[I]s it enough, as India’s demand for energy rises alongside the expansion of its middle classes.” It’s a scary thing, but not more than this shocking statistic: India’s coal imports rose by 13% last year! And, later in the article, the authors argue, and I feel it’s a legit argument, that it’ll be difficult for all South Asian countries to shift to “carbon-neutral energy products.”

I do not make it a point here that the Prime Minister is saying one thing and doing things that he doesn’t say. (Well, that’s a usual scene in a fascist regime.) I do want to attract your attention to the practicality of his statements. We, certainly, as a nation, can adopt ways to preserving and conserving the environment. And we all should. The point, however, is: the “behavioural change” that the Prime Minister wants is a long-term commitment and not a one-time solution. To tackle the situation, what one needs is an actual roadmap and not a self-congratulatory speech.

The structure of renewable energy production is crippled. (I myself have worked as a solar engineer and I know how bids function, how contracts are awarded, how solar plants are thoughtlessly placed at various sites, and how in the name of natural production of electricity this business is becoming a bubble.) Even if the structure and functioning of production of non-fossil energy are in a blessed state, the question remains: Will it be sufficient for all without harming the environment? Or we’re going to split our energy demands. Meeting a few, and that few is a huge number actually, by harming the environment? Like we always have. 

Amid these promises, the PM also said, and this attracted a lot of attention, that the “world needs to act now.” Sure, we do prime minister. The question is: In which direction? (Because, as you talk about Science and Technology a lot, there’s one kind of a work that is of ‘zero’ value to science, even if it involves a lot of hard work, which you do a lot.)

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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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