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5 Bizarre Statements Our Politicians Made This Smog Season

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The festive season is finally over and apart from the post-festive blues, what the people of North-India have become used to experiencing is toxic, polluted air, or what is scientifically called ‘smog’. Smog is nothing but your friendly winter fog mixed with an unwanted amount of pollen, dust, and other pollutants. While anyone would want to avoid this toxic air, strangely, it is becoming an annual occurrence in the northern belt of India, due to a plethora of reasons such as stubble burning, vehicular emissions, industrial pollution, and firecracker emissions (yes, you read that right, the ban didn’t seem to go down well here).

Although air pollution is the prime reason behind 80 deaths per day in Delhi-NCR, our lawmakers seem to be unfazed by this data. What they seem to be more interested in is blaming each other for the smog and suggesting that school children write letters to the CMs of Punjab and Haryana demanding actionable solutions.

Now, this air pollution is not a new phenomenon and has become a routine occurrence over the past three years. In an ideal scenario, there should have been active steps taken by the government to prevent this from happening year after year. Our elected representatives have some suggestions for us on how to deal with the #DelhiSmog. Read on to know what our politicians have to say!

#PollutionPaath 1: Prakash Javadekar Says “Start Your Day with Music…”

On November 3, when the air quality skyrocketed to 1400 (hazardous level) in many parts of Delhi-NCR, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar tweeted a bit of very interesting advice—for us to start the day by listening to ‘scintillating’ music. While listening to good music can cheer anyone on a dull day, this was certainly not a solution to the gloomy smog-filled Sunday morning, where all you could see was smoke, dust, and pollutants outside your window. Such was the scenario, that even being indoor felt similar to staying in a gas chamber. We expected better from you, Mr. Javadekar.

#PollutionPaath 2: Perform ‘Yagnas’ To Tackle Pollution- Create Pollution To Reduce Pollution?

As shocking as it sounds, Uttar Pradesh Minister, Sunil Bharala seemed to be convinced that performing ‘yajnas’ or the Hindu ritual performed to please gods, was the only way to deal with the toxic smog. According to him, stubble burning is a natural activity performed since time immemorial and the smoke resulting due to it cannot be prevented. Instead of criticising it, Bharala said that governments should perform ‘yajnas’ to please Lord Indra who would set things right by ushering rainfall.

Not sure which era we are in!

#PollutionPaath 3: A Carrot A Day, Keeps The Pollution Away?

Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan suggested a dietary specification to deal with the pollution—Carrots.

Apparently, munching on carrots can be a good way to deal with the side effects of smog. When the entire city was gasping for breath and struggling to deal with respiratory ailments, this advice appeared to be quite inappropriate. It did not seem to go down well on Twitter.

#PollutionPaath 4: Blame Thy Neighbour, Whenever Something Goes Wrong

Moving on from solutions, our political leaders have now started analysing the reasons behind the smog. According to BJP leader Vineet Agarwal Sharda, neither stubble burning or vehicular emission, but Pakistan and China are responsible for India’s contaminated air. He feels that out of sheer jealously our two neighbours have been releasing ‘poisonous gases’ to create the smog cover in the northern belt. A fact to be noted here is that Lahore and several other parts of Pakistan have been facing extremely poor air quality as well.

If this is true, the plot needs to be solved soon. Wonder who is the mastermind behind this!

#PollutionPaath 5: When You’re Not Able To Agree With The Solution, Defy It!

BJP MP Vijay Goel seems to be at loggerheads with Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party. To tackle increasing levels of pollution, Arvind Kejriwal had announced the reintroduction of the ‘Odd-Even’ scheme from November 4 to 15. Mr. Goel openly defied the rule and tweeted that the scheme is “useless” and that he will take out his car with an odd number plate on the first day (November 4) of the scheme to oppose the rule.

Not only this, yesterday evening, he put out a tweet saying that he, along with several other ministers, propose to ride a bicycle to Manish Sisodia’s residence today, November 7, to give a “bunch of parali (stubble)”. Now that is some entertainment!

What message do you have for our leaders? Share your thoughts with us here.

Featured Image credit: Prakash Javadekar, Sunil Bharala, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Vineet Agarwal Sharda, Vijay Goel/Facebook

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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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