This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Sharath Nair. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Can Indian Economy Benefit From Imitating China’s Liberal Economics?

Are you an 80s or a 90s kid? Don’t you see how life has changed so much over the last few decades? Sure, you’ve grown along the way, but I’m not talking about responsibilities and personal growth. Or am I?

Before you start thinking that I might be a delusional little internet troll, let me tell you what I’ll be writing about in the following lines: Capitalism. Yeah, you’ve heard of it somewhere. Perhaps it was your NRI business tycoon of an uncle, or it was some economist showboating his/her vocabulary on a news debate, or maybe you’ve heard it in your humble little classrooms in the economics class in class ninth! But, do you know what the word really means?

I’ll describe the word in three ways so that I don’t disappoint anyone.

To the dictionary lovers, going by the words of the Macmillan Dictionary of Modern Economics,  Capitalism is defined as, “Political, social, and economic system in which property, including capital assets, is owned and controlled for the most part by private persons. Capitalism contrasts with an earlier economic system, feudalism, in that it is characterized by the purchase of labor for money wages as opposed to the direct labor obtained through custom, duty or command in feudalism… Under capitalism, the price mechanism is used as a signaling system which allocates resources between uses. The extent to which the price mechanism is used, the degree of competitiveness in markets, and the level of government intervention distinguish exact forms of capitalism.”

To the scholarly article hoarder, a Harvard business school publication says, “Capitalism is a social, political, and economic system that succeeded feudalism based upon recognition of the rights of private parties to choose how to employ their labor and capital in markets as indicated by market prices instead of tradition.” 

And, to the simpletons or the laymen like myself: capitalism is simply a culture wherein people or a bunch of people take it upon themselves to improve not just their lives, but improving the lives of others as well—without seeking the help of an authority like a government. In the pursuit, people can make money, and that is one of the many benefits of such a culture. The government takes a back seat.

We all love some comparison, don’t we? Though we may despise it as much as we hate Sharma Ji’s beta, it is a part of human nature. I’d like to make a little comparison here—just for the sake of taking this article forward and enlighten the reader better.

China GDP per capita

Well, what’s a graph doing here? A graph of China’s GDP per capita. What on earth does that mean? What? Are you mocking me for my poor understanding of Economics?!

GDP per capita is a reliable scale of how well a country’s citizens are doing. It shows just how wealthy a country’s citizens are too. Now that that’s out of the way, back to what I was getting to. For China, you’ll see, the stats are moving upward, and that shouldn’t be a bad thing, right? It is true. You’ll also see that around the 1990s, something interesting happened. China was at the stage of major reform. It was around this time that China began making strides towards becoming the world’s factory. The government decided that private manufacturers could now manufacture on a massive scale with little or no restrictions. This liberal move by the Chinese government changed the trajectory of China’s economy. Everything has been upward and onward ever since. Yeah, this reminds me of those poor “Made in China” jokes again.

Liberalisation?

You might recall that something similar happened with India in the 90s right? Those retro visuals of Dr Narasimha Rao and this not so familiar ex-Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh might be flashing in your heads. Doordarshan and pathetic cable TV: hard to say that that was a thing once. Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation changed the way Indians looked at the economy forever. The growth has been remarkable.

India GDP per capita

Over the course of these years, massive changes have taken place. Cultural shifts, imported products that were once smuggled are now legal; iPhones are now being manufactured locally! Who would have thought!? My word. India certainly has come a long way. What was behind all of this? There’s only one answer. The spirit of capitalism: equal opportunity; free markets; reduced government restrictions; better standards of living; sustained growth. A country’s prosperity.

It is not a joke when people say that India has a long way to go. India has massive potential—potential that is out of this world. I’m reminded of this little analogy that I made up about India: ” India is like that bright but slack and mischievous little kid who has all the potential to be the best student in the class, but gains attention for all the wrong reasons.” True, isn’t it? People outside, in the west and in the far east all joke that India needs to get rid of its stupid politicians, its slums, its hunger problems and a whole lot of problems that it needs to address. But, in spite of all this uncertainty and the criticism, India has done so well in so many ways. This is a great reason to be a proud citizen! What gives me even more delight is that the only way is up, and capitalism is going to play a huge part.

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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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