PM Modi’s Deafening Silence On 7 Critical Issues Looming Over The Country In 2019

2019 was rather an eventful turn of political affairs, from gruesome terrorist attacks to defiance against the current government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been gradually losing their names in the good books! Ex-PM, Dr Manmohan Singh was mocked for being the ‘Silent PM,’ but I guess the pages have turned now!

Enlisted below are the critical times where PM Modi stayed silent in 2019, forging his ultimate responsibility as the ‘Prime Minister’ of the world’s largest democracy. After all, criticism makes democracy stronger. Not my words. 

The Falling Economy 

It is no surprise that India is reported to be amidst a major economic shutdown as stated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The PM’s silence on something so crucial and critical to the nation as a developing economy is eerie. However, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman recently said:Looking at the economy in discerning view, you see that growth may have come down but it is not recession yet; it won’t be recession ever.” (Are we waiting for the recession to happen, though?) 

(L) Former PM Manmohan Singh; (R) Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan

What is even more worrisome is, ex-RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and Dr Manmohan Singh (DPhil, Oxford) have repeatedly published and suggested reforms to save the dying economy. India’s economic growth slowed to a 6-year low of 4.5% in the July-September quarter, and Rajan had suggested reforms to liberalise capital, land and labour markets, and spur investment and growth.

Singh criticised the falling economy as unacceptable, worrisome, and said, “I will talk today, largely as a concerned citizen and as an economist, so that we can keep politics out of this important discussion.”

When two of the most revered economists of the nation criticised something, the least the PM can do is say something! 

Soaring Unemployment 

As of December 26, 2019, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate in India stands at 7.6% (Urban 9.1%; Rural 6.9%). With an employment rate of 8%, November witnessed the lowest labour participation of 42.37%, ever! These numbers are scary, even if you fail to grasp any of these, the baseline is, the future generations are pretty much screwed. With a mounting population and growing number of degrees, the number of suitable jobs available is pretty rare. 

The youth today works at positions they’re way overqualified for, the future generation is definitely in for a treat with a falling economy resulting in a major-major job crunch. But, PM of the world’s largest democracy remains silent, yet again.

There have been no official statements by PM Modi on the looming crisis, and neither have any of his schemes come out with flying colours. A nation with the majority of the population in the working-age, the unearthed capability, and potential, is surely going down the drain. 

The Changing Climate 

It is no surprise that the country is undergoing erratic climatic conditions; from heat waves to floods to cyclones, 2019 witnessed all of it on the Indian sub-continent!

If the statistics are to be believed, July 2019 was the hottest ever recorded, the monsoons witnessed 74% more extreme rainfall, and seven cyclones hit the country. India has been ranked as the fifth-most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change. By 2050, Mumbai, Surat, Chennai and Kolkata are predicted to be lost underwater. Is this the future that India dreams of? Is this not crucial enough for the esteemed PM to ‘at least’ make a comment on? 

The intensity of this issue keeps on growing, day-by-day, slowly choking us, sucking out our very life under the name of ‘development’. As ‘Friday for Future’ gained momentum, the Ministry of Environment remained as silent as ever.

As the Aarey forest was being shredded to pieces, the government stayed silent as ever. As the rivers dried out and chemically reacted in ways unfathomable, the government stayed silent as ever, again. 

PM Modi’s eerie silence on an issue of such imminent pertinence is nothing but a snippet for the dark future that is yet to come. 

The Agricultural Crisis 

Over 12,000 farmers have died by suicide in Maharashtra between 2015 and 2018. With the rising global mean temperatures, the farm crisis is expected to worsen. The very farmers who this country owes a multitude of funds, resources and respect, is out there on the streets protesting to save them!

Representational image.

2019 witnessed a rise in farmer protests which were silently shunned off by shutting down the functioning of the Delhi Metro and promoting road blockages. PM Modi has never really remarked or implemented anything in favour of the farmers or relieved them from their worries. 

During times of natural disasters, as survivors scavenge for food, down the line of middle-man and cold storages, rots the very sweat and hard work of the farmers. The rising inflation and failed mechanisms are exactly why the primary sector faults below both the secondary and tertiary sectors. Modi’s silence on issues related to one of the lowest-paid manual labourers’ of the country speaks volumes.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill

Considered as one of the most draconian laws of 2019, Transgender Bill, or the Trans Bill (now an act), projects a very myopic version of gender and sexuality by the hands of failed policymakers. Activists say the act itself goes against the principle of self-determination which has to be mandated by a district magistrate. In case of rejection, no room for redressal or appeal is provided.

The people who laid down the foundation for such a regressive bill include a cis-hetero male perspective, and the inclusion of non-binary individuals has been excluded.

The silence of the Prime Minister, on something which deals with basic, absolutely fundamental human rights of an entire community, is not just questionable but also offensive. Compared to the discriminatory, non-inclusive Citizenship Amendment Act, Twitter says: 

The Game of Politics 

2019 witnessed a number of Assembly Elections all over the country, however, the one in Maharashtra was better than the eight Season of Game of Thrones. One second, Thackeray got the throne, another, Fadnavis took it home. Then, again, it all changed, as if we were in a failed Dharma Productions stint on political satire.

(L) Uddhav Thackeray; (R) Devendra Fadnavis.

The sheer powerplay and dirty politics that ensued was a major threat to the functioning and integrity of democracy. The power entitled to the voters was reduced to nothing but a formality. Referring to Shah’s methods as that of ‘Chanakya’s’ we saw peak ignorance by patrons of the BJP.   

PM Modi’s muteness on a situation which directly affects the very functioning of democracy deserved at least a single comment from him, let alone democracy, his party’s future and their alliance with Shiv Sena were worth giving a second thought to. 

The ‘Heiniousity’ of Rapes 

So much for women safety and empowerment, as ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ came crashing down. Modi’s eerie resistance on commenting on two major rapes which shook the country in 2019 makes all of us ask, in unison, why

The Unnao rape case where the rapist, Kuldeep Singh Sengar was a BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh, deserved all the shame, disgrace and isolation, but was met with nothing but public criticism. The Prime Minister abstained from commenting on a rapist from his party. Let that sink in, and question, why would anyone take the side of a rapist?

Protests in the aftermath of the Unnao case, against Kuldeep Senger, convicted of rape, murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and criminal intimidation.

What good are schemes when the very ruling party we elected harbours rapists? Followed by the gruesome gang-rape of Hyderabad veterinarian, which triggered a series of protests all over India and was drawn parallels to the infamous Nirbhaya rape case; the silence of the very people who are responsible for ensuring the safety of women raises pertinent questions, again. 

The Telangana extra-judicial encounter of the to-be believed rapists created another uproar all over the country, with people pleading the Prime Minister to ‘at least’ speak up then! Modi’s silence on catering to women’s safety is problematic, his silence on rapes of such heinous magnitude is even more problematic. 

However, when the very non-judgment makers deliver a judgement that is yet again a threat to one of the basic pillars of the democracy-the judiciary

As the question of democracy reiterates time and again, by the time 2019 ended, India was coloured with the rage of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Central Universities remain under threat, and premier Universities plagued with fee hike.

The utopian dream of India becoming a ‘superpower’ by 2020, still remains a quixotic dream. Right before the 2019 General Elections, a transferred one-sided conversation masqueraded as a ‘press conference’ was carried out by the BJP. How much can the public hope for, how much can the public be fooled? After all, he is an honourable man. 

When the country is in shambles, the least the Prime Minister can do is say anything but, sab changa si! 

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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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