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As The Constitution Is Under Threat: Let’s Remember, D Is For Democracy, Not Dictatorship

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Going by the book, democracy is a system of governance for the people, by the people and of the people. Apart from this, what people know about democracy is that the elected representatives engage in the governing system to satisfy the common man’s demand and to make a harmonised society. But what will happen when the elected representatives no more represent the people’s will?

It is imperative that the consent of the people, for whom the laws are made, be addressed while making laws.

What if the people are not allowed to raise their demands? What if the people who ask questions to the system are labelled ‘anti-national’? What if the elections are rigged? What if the basic constitutional tenets are harmed by the elected representatives?

Then comes the real question of democracy, and of the constitution drafted by Dr.Ambedkar, which we have taken for granted. The democracy in the minds of our constitution makers meant – a committed judiciary, media committed to the profession and not to political parties, concerned and awake citizens who preserve all liberties that go on to make a democratic society.

It is imperative that the consent of the people, for whom the laws are made, be addressed while making laws. In a democratic setup, the politicians must know what the people want, but they must also have the data on which they can outline schemes to satisfy the needs of the people. It is on the Parliament to act as a watchdog of the activities of the executive; and, it is to the credit of the opposition that it has always kept a vigilant eye open in this respect.

But unfortunately, the opposition is doing its own needful to somehow be in power. The valuable time of the Parliament is wasted when ruckus is created, the debate is stalled and it is not in the national interest. It is the duty of the party in power as well as the opposition to listen to each other and to give feedback to improvise the discussion so that the root question is addressed.

Even in a democratic country like India, press and independent newspapers have to cope up with pressure. This is not the first time that The Hindu has been denied government ads; the same happened in 1971. When the press is frightened, democracy is subverted.

Newspapers that do not follow a particular party’s line are threatened with extinction. In 2014, the current PM of India tweeted ”India has won” after his huge electoral victory. Does that mean that all the other parties except NDA were “anti-India”? In a democracy, and that too in a parliamentary form of democracy, one party should not claim itself as the only nationalist party because even the other party members are elected by the people of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah after a landslide victory in Lok Sabha elections 2019 at BJP HQ, New Delhi

So, is it legitimate to call the people’s decision as “anti-national”? The opposition should be loyal to the constitution and not to the government of the day. What is the use of an opposition party if its views are not recognised? Dissent and opposition should be acknowledged as legitimate, not “anti-national”. INC had a majority but they rightly and fairly acknowledged the opposition while making the constitution.

Is There Any Standard By Which We Can Judge The Democracy?

The co-existence of social movements along with opposition and dissent make the Indian democracy. Democracy is a living thing, it evolves and acquires different forms. It should be promoted through an orderly application of basic institutional rules under the constitution and must move in diversity to work in an orderly manner.

We have to discourage communal forces and should not use them for the sake of political power as this will harm the secular nature of India in the long term. Political gains should not outweigh the cost of democracy and constitutional values. The political parties should walk on the path of consensus-building and transparency. A sense of security should be restored across all the sections of society.  The future will answer the questions arising out of the controversial abrogation of article 370 and the NRC process which may be implemented pan-India, along with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019 in the long term.

Our constitution makers toiled day and night to draft the holy book of the constitution to secure the future of India and to give us freedom. We have taken this freedom and democracy for granted; for example, taking holiday trips on election day, electing a criminal to represent the people, ignoring the misuse of the constitution by the government in power, by not taking a stand against the socio-political wrongs, etc.

We are undermining our rights as well as duties which make the soul of the constitution. When we say that “democracy” is the rule of the people, by the people and for the people, we have to check whether this is followed in letter and spirit. There are many instances in the 70 years of Indian democracy when people in power have misused the constitution and law of the land for the sake of power by “power” to rule, “power” for making wealth.

Why don’t we ask ourselves as to why is poverty still an issue after 70 years; why people still need schemes like MNREGA? Why we are lacking in technology when we have a huge number of engineers in the country?

The lawmakers are constitutionally compelled to answer all these questions. And if we are not getting satisfactory answers, then there is something wrong in the system. “System”, this word is on everyone’s lips -what it is exactly? It is simply a structural manner to empower the society through checks and balances, to give justice to all, to make sure that no one is hungry, and to make sure that system is doing its best to make the society peaceful,  happy,  harmonised and aware.

Democracy doesn’t fall due to corrupt, powerful and incompetent leaders but due to powerless and ignorant citizens. Remember, even Hitler used the constitution to be a dictator and the people of Germany blindly followed his diktat.

Rest is history. It’s the duty of “We” the people of India to preserve the idea of India and let the Tiranga fly high in the sky. Jai Hind.

This article was originally published here.

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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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