The Political War In Maharashtra Has Only Ignored And Distracted People From Their Woes

Politics was never on my palette till 2014 and in the last five years, I have seen political discourse hurtle down into downright abuse. I have been restraining myself from writing about politics after the 2019 general elections. From being an active political commentator on Twitter, for which I had to cope with many abusive trolls, I have reduced myself to a mere spectator. But, the ongoing political theatrics in Maharashtra has forced me to pen down this article.

I have never felt that democracy is any better or is the alternative to monarchy or autocracy. The fundamental objective of the concept of democracy is to eradicate two words—power and rule. Unlike monarchy and autocracy, in a democracy, power over people is not vested in any individual and consequently, no one can rule over the people. Democracy gives people the right to choose representatives who will govern them.

Governance has innumerable aspects to it and to fulfill all of them, an extremely complex system of administration has been created over a period of time. This complexity has inadvertently put the power of the people right back into the hands of their representatives which is why the word ‘rule’ never got erased. President’s rule, Governor’s rule—makes me feel like the President is the Emperor of the country and the Governor is the King of a state. The concept of democracy has been mangled to spread the power of people thin and wide, and this is the bane of multi-party politics.

Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at Matoshri during a press conference after the Lok Sabha results were announced, Kalanagar, Bandra East, on May 23, 2019, in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Aalok Soni/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

So what transpired in Maharashtra? As is the norm of 5-year cycles, people were required to vote for a new government or endorse the existing government for another term. Due to a multi-party political scenario, people’s votes spread out among the different political parties with the result that no party got a simple majority to claim stake to form the government. This is where the system of multi-party democracy rears its ugly head. Political parties and independent candidates who fought against one another in the elections align with each other to form coalition governments. This sentence needs to be noted carefully. ‘Fought’ or ‘fighting’ is a word associated with the monarchy wherein wars to succeed a king used to be common in the past, but the word is still used in democracy. This is how media reports it rather than mentioning that candidates competed with one another to win people’s mandate to give them better governance.

How are political parties separate from one another? Supposedly through their ideologies but are in reality driven by the ulterior agenda to form the government at any cost. What is the reason for this desperation? Two basic reasons. The most important objective of a government is to collect taxes from people and organisations and use the money for the development of the country through different schemes and by providing funds. Signatures of political leaders who become ministers are required to activate the schemes and funds so that the tax money can be released to the public. 80% of the money gets eaten away by corruption, right from the ministers to the municipal level. The ministers also hold sway over the functioning of the private sector through bureaucratic red tape. These reasons have debilitated India’s economy from flourishing for decades.

I do not blame the political class entirely for this ongoing disastrous situation. Ministers only sign on the dotted lines, and without the aid of the bureaucracy and civil administration, no amount of corruption is possible by any means. So how do we know they are not the real culprits? Simply complain about a government officer to a minister. 99.9% chances are that the minister will ignore the complaint and would most probably inform the government official which would lead to some sort of action by the police or another government department against the complainant. 90% of political leaders in India still don’t have enough education to do critical thinking and differentiate between what should be done and what shouldn’t be, so handling complex government offices is far beyond their limited capabilities.

Sharad Pawar

Coming back to the Maharashtra fiasco, apparently, the Shiv Sena hierarchy has been silently fuming at their eroding vote bank because of BJP’s agenda of fulfilling the RSS agenda of aggressively spreading Hindutva across the country. So, the Shiv Sena top brass decided enough is enough and demanded that the next chief minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government should be from their party. This was roundly derided and discarded by BJP as Fadnavis was their popular leader. The ensuing political bickering and deadlock are what brought none other than the wily Sharad Pawar into the fray. I was under the assumption that the man had almost retired from active politics but what he has made happen in the last few days has been mind-boggling.

Though he has been largely silent at the national level politics, he has demonstrated how well he can flex his muscles when it comes to a political bout at the state level, even at the ripe old age of 79. So why has he suddenly plunged into putting together a coalition between the Shiv Sena, his party and the Congress? He most probably saw this as the best opportunity to reassert his dominance one more time at the state level and extend his sphere of influence at the national level. But more importantly, he must have seen this as the opportunity for his party and his successors in the party to become strong political influencers in the future.

Outwitting the Modi-Shah team at their own political game has been no easy task in the last five years. They are undoubtedly driven by their lust to hold on to power at any cost and they can never be out of action for any period of time. The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition, if they form the government, is a 3-way marriage with each party having their own agenda. The Modi-Shah team will pull every trick out of their hat to cause an implosion in the coalition which is going to make the government stand on shaky ground.

I feel sorry for the people of Maharashtra. They were made to stand in long winding queues to vote and this political drama is what they have got in return. Instead of a government that will address the state’s agrarian distress, economic issues, environmental issues caused by the destruction of the Aarey forest and a large number of people suffering at the hands of the Punjab National Bank among many other pertinent issues, all they have got is a chance to watch the political slugfest unfold. But, no one seems to be asking “to hell with all the political wrangling, where is the governance and administration I voted for?” Rather, the ongoing drama has piqued everyone’s interest and they are indulging in discussing and squabbling about it.

Not even God can save this country from the mess it is in.

Featured image credit: Getty Images
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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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