Stubble Burning May Be Part Of The Pollution Problem: But Why Ignore Other Causes?

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That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger cannot be said about the growing amount of pollution in the Northern part of India. The statistics paint a rather gory image of what we inhale now. While I write this article and breathe simultaneously, I might have already been subjected to smoke equivalent to smoking a cigarette.

While the capital faces the wrath of burning incidents taking place elsewhere, it is hard to believe that the hue and cry rest only on one factor. Geographically speaking, when the surrounding air is cold, and the atmosphere is already contaminated with PM, then the site of smog is a common phenomenon. And that is the exact reason why we’re unable to see clearly with our naked eyes, both literally and metaphorically. The problem of stubble burning is huge but is NOT the single problem creator.

Being the capital, Delhi has been garnering all the attention, and so has the case of stubble burning, but what about the supporting actors? What about the incessant trying/buying/running of vehicles? Easier said than done, a ban was put on stubble burning, but can we put the same ban on the fuel usage of cars that run on Delhi roads?

Public transport already runs on CNG, but can we put an overnight ban on private cars that use petrol and diesel, without providing a clear alternative? Can we just forget about justice here? No! What purpose does it serve to put an overnight ban on the stubble burning of the farmers, without providing them with an alternative? Especially now, when its already time to prepare those fields for the Rabi season. Are we prepared to face the wrath, in case the crops don’t have the expected yield, and India being an agricultural economy, suffers?

Aren’t we the same people who use air conditioners, spray deodorants, light incense sticks, use non-biodegradable sanitary napkins, burn the trash which we should have otherwise disposed of at a safer dumping ground? We celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with much furore and despite knowing how pollution is already spreading, still, immerse the idols made of POP in the water bodies. We use the train’s washroom while it is still standing at the platform, and then close our noses when we get a foul smell in and around the station.

Well, to say the least, we are not just hypocrites, but also, the idea of our ideal development is pretty underdeveloped.

The dais has been with Delhi for quite some time now; it’s time we make a shift and turn our heads to other small, yet significant cities, where the recorded levels of AQI as per the CPCB has been even higher than what was witnessed in Delhi.

Majorly, we need to understand, that it isn’t a competition, where we should be competing for “Who’s got the higher AQI?”. Rather, we should devise ways of curbing the menace of pollution, irrelevant if it’s land, air, water or light. Pollution is pollution and its causing harm to us, and to our future generation, through us.

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In 1986, Chernobyl was termed a disaster, because catastrophic changes were witnessed, and history has already painted a rather gloomy image of what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1984, the Bhopal Gas tragedy had no parallel in the world’s industrial history. Today, though we don’t have a specific name to address it, we can sure see the inordinate effects of the same. Pollution is not a monthly problem; it is long-lived, it grows with us.

Stubble burning is only a catalyst that has aggravated it, and that needs to be addressed, but that is not just the only activity which needs to be addressed. We need to come together, come up with solutions for the year, and not just a season or a month. Do you think smog is the only problem? Don’t you think rising temperatures, extreme winds that cause dust and dander, extreme floods, and droughts also need to be addressed? What about the contamination of water that entire the NCR region supplies in its pipeline, and is often used for bathing and cooking purposes, the tarnished Taj Mahal, the spoiled Ganga water, and Yamuna river, which was once a holy river and is now just a drain? And can we ignore the staggering amount of traffic on the roads every day, and the continuous blaring of horns in and around all cities, mass extinction of species and forest fires? These aren’t a problem?

We all sure can be ‘Alice in Wonderland’, but we know what happened to Alice, she fell for a lie and landed herself in trouble.

I quote Sunderland Bahuguna, “The solution of present-day problems lies in the re-establishment of a harmonious relationship between man and nature. To keep this relationship permanent, we will have to digest the definition of real development: development is synonymous with culture. When we sublimate nature in a way that we achieve peace, happiness, prosperity and, ultimately, fulfilment along with satisfying our basic needs, we march towards culture.”

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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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