This Republic Day, Here’s How I Envision The India Of My Dreams

It will be worth it to start my essay with the quote of sitting INC MP Shashi Tharoor

“India shaped my mind, anchored my identity, influenced my beliefs, and made me who I am. India matters to me and I would like to matter to India.”

The people can no longer accept the hatred and autocratic system, which does not hear the voices of its citizens. Representational image

The reason I am writing this article is because of the situation we all are going through. Some divisive forces are trying to alter the basic structure of the Constitution of India. There are protests, not only in India but in the whole world; fighting to sustain the democratic setup of our country.

The people can no longer accept the hatred and autocratic system, which does not hear the voices of its citizens, and tries to suppress dissent. This article is going to articulate the past, present and future of India.

If the youth won’t take charge of leading the nation now, I doubt we’ll get this chance again in the future.

Our Past And The Leaders

When we became independent from the British rule, the important task for the leaders was to give a path of progress to its citizens, through the constitution, and through the political, social and economic reforms. It was not a win-win situation for the newly born country, as she had to tackle the mass riots of religious fanatics, mass poverty, and at the same time, face a war-like situation in Kashmir.

The leaders of our country kept on handling all these tasks bravely, and systematically, without getting diverted by those tough scenarios. It is because of these efforts that our democracy is in its 70’s.

Unfortunately, we lack that quality of leaders today. To keep democracy ‘ON’, we have to elect leaders who convoke and succeed with integrity. We want leaders who will have the guts to accept failures. We want leaders who understand the altered global landscape, leaders who know how to harness the energy of creative and innovative youth.

The leaders who will invoke a positive ad progressive, political culture and will reject the divisive and exploitative politics. We have seen, recently in Kashmir, that political leaders have been made detainees under the draconian PSA act. We have seen at the time of emergency, when the democratic setup was turned into a dictatorship, overnight. We want leaders who have a clear determination of the nation’s overall aim.

The country needs a leader who can classify the attainable, sustainable and suitable goals to achieve that aim; through intelligent deliberation. We want the government, be it of any party or coalition, to accept different views and opinions. We want a parliament where the ruling party and opposition should function in cooperation when there are matters of urgent public importance.

Indian lawmakers from opposition parties including Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi, Gulam Nabi Azad and Jyotiraditya Scindia centre, join for a protest in the Parliament premises against the government demonetizing high-value bills in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016.

The gap between people aspirations and the government machinery has to be bridged. Leaders should keep their ears close to the earth to hear the voices of common people. We want an inclusive parliament where the youth from different sections of the society are adequately represented. Governance which connects people: Digital India is indeed a good step towards good governance, but at the same time, we also have to identify the areas where we are lacking, to expand digitally.

The policymakers are certainly aware of the rapidly changing world. This is the age of acceleration, where if you have to yield results, the technological advancement should actively interact with the socio-political systems.

In this decade, our GDP is at a new low in many quarters. The stakeholders should connect with the global economy, to boost India’s economy, and to gain value-added progress. Structural reforms in the government machinery and management systems are the need of the hour.

While spreading our export net in global seas, we also have to concentrate on how to make a strong regional reach, for the beneficial growth of all sections of the society. We cannot remain isolated in the 21st century.

The government has to keep the youth in the loop of development, as they are the foot soldiers of progress. More reforms are needed, such as the one nation – one ration card scheme. The falling water table is a crucial problem in India, and it is going to become more problematic, eventually.

We have recently seen Chennai come out on the streets for water. It’s good to see that the government is now working to provide piped water to all. At the same time, the local administration should ensure that the piped water is safe for drinking.

We have seen hazards in Punjab and Haryana due to polluted groundwater, and a lack of security in various sectors.

Food Security: For instance, there is a lack of reform in food security to tackle daily life challenges. The bad monsoons have added oil to the fire. Our economy is not completely agriculture-based today as compared to the past decades. The farmers are facing challenges due to the lack of accessibility to technology. Those who are using techno-innovations in farming are faring much better than those who don’t.

So what we need, is to provide maximum technological access, to all the farmers, and to motivate them in their struggle for livelihood. Many will think is a farce, but it is actually needed because many farmers in India resort to suicide due to the stress of loans.

At the same time, we have to look for alternate options, to tackle food security like looking for agri-imports, controlling the population, etc.

Energy Security: India is still a fossil fuel-dependent country, in terms of generation of energy. India is a topper among the oil importers in the world. We are an oil-based economy.  There should be a multi-pronged approach to deal with energy security. India has to look for cheaper oil imports. Currently, India is purchasing oil at higher rates from the USA, Iran and southeast nations.

The policymakers should see the viability of electric vehicles and encourage their manufacture and use. The setting up of an International Solar Alliance is a giant step in the energy sector, to turn the growing population of the country towards solar energy. We have to generate social conscience in people to use the resources wisely and properly.

National Security: The government is taking efficient steps in dealing with cross border terrorism like  BOLD-QIT (Border Electronically Dominated QRT Interception Technique) under CIBMS (Comprehensive Integrated Border Management system) on the India-Bangladesh border. The implementation of this project is not only helping BSF to curb all type of cross border crimes, but also provides respite to the troops from round the clock human surveillance.

The government is using Space technology for border management.  The new government has an opportunity to play a better game. So, build up the Quad and the India-Japan-US trilateral. Keep up the opposition to Belt, Road and CPEC (China-Pakistan- Economic Corridor). Keep Pakistan on its toes regarding support to terrorism, both diplomatically, and through the multilateral route, like IMF (International Monetary Fund) and FATF (Financial Action Task Force).

One big security issue is the frequent presence of ISIS in Kerala. So far, the NIA (National Investigation Agency) and other security agencies have succeeded in capturing them but we should be very alert and not give Terror organisations another opportunity to surprise us, like 26/11.

Space Security:  All the three, i.e, Maritime Space, Outer Space and Cyberspace,  should be equipped with defensive, as well as offensive capabilities, to tackle the tech-revolution, which is both, a boon and curse.

Recently, we have seen the successful test of ASAT ( Anti-Satellite) which can destroy the spy satellites, roaming in space, posing threats to our security apparatus, and development infrastructure.

Think tanks should have a collaborative approach to deal with all the security challenges. Shared perceptions across states should be encouraged, to create a safer and more secure India. There is a lot to be done in the education sector and local administration reforms are needed.

Education: We have to focus on primary education more than secondary education. The schools need creative teachers, creative syllabus and creative classrooms. There are many schools in India where we don’t have basic facilities like drinking water, hygienic conditions, etc. We recently saw in UP, that the students were served salt and chapatis in the MDM program.

We want an India where there will be no more child deaths due to lack of facilities, infrastructure and money.

We have to inculcate the habit of reading for the overall development of students. We have to redefine education, energy and health care. Ayushman Bharat, ATAL Tinkering Labs and Atal Innovative Mission are some of the steps taken by Government to ensure health for all, boosting creativity and innovation respectively.

We want an India where there will be no more child deaths due to lack of facilities, infrastructure and money. It is true that the unemployment rate is at an all-time high in India at present, but the policymakers should also concentrate on the productivity of employed people. I strongly felt there was a lot to be done in reforming the police ecosystem when I saw the brutal handling of civilian protests.

It is true that the way of showing dissent should be non-violent, but at the same time, the government should accept the dissent non-violently.

The role of citizens in nation-building: The modern democracy should deal with deep diversity cautiously, as we have many religions, languages, ethnicities, cultures and traditions. The country should not see diversity as a handicap or a problem. Instead, we have to foreground its diversity.

Sharing of power is very essential to accommodate diversity. The people have to keep the fanatics, divisive, intolerant and extremist people out of power, because the democratic diversity can’t sustain in hate and violence.

We have to celebrate diversity to sustain India’s culture. The citizens must acquire knowledge of how government machinery functions, they must understand the basic problems of society.

We desperately need an alert, awake, aware and vigilant Indian electorate, and fair application of power, by those who gain it, through the democratic process. Remember, India exists due to its diversity.

References: PIB India, NITI AAYOG, Economic Times, Times Of India.

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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.

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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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