As We Step Into Our 71st Republic Day, India Ranks As A ‘Flawed Democracy’

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Was Abrogation Of Article 370 A Democratic Decision?

The entire valley went on a long term communication blackout, with the deployment of armed forces. J & K was detached from the rest of the nation.

5th August 2019 – the Red Letter Day in the Indian Republic, when the constitutional autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked, with the abrogation of Article 370 that had granted special status to the state.

The central nationalist government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah, nullified the powers exercised by that state under Article 370.

J & K was further reduced to the stature of Union territory and Ladakh was established as a separate UT. The government declared that values relating to democracy, equality and peace were the prime reason for the measure. But was this the truth?

Well, perhaps not. This can be said, because right from that day, the entire valley went on a long term communication blackout, with the deployment of armed forces. J & K was detached from the rest of the nation.

People spoke out about the sheer inconvenience they faced, as they were unable to get in touch with their families in the newly created Union Territory. The people of Kashmir were completely stopped from speaking up. Was this a democratic decision taken in the interest of civilians, by violating their fundamental rights?

Even if the initial blackout was done to combat the anticipated havoc, that could have risen, surrounding the revocation; there was absolutely no strong reason given as to why this went on until the Apex court of India issued orders to the government to restore all the communication services.

However, not all internet services have been restored. As this report explains “The administration also restored 2G mobile data services, but only for access to a set of 153 “white-listed” websites, in all districts of Jammu division and two districts of Kashmir division – Kupwara and Bandipora.”

How Democratic Is CAA?

The fact is that when a political party comes to power, to form a government, they are supposed to work towards holistic growth and interest of the nation, that comprises of each and every citizen irrespective of caste, religion and gender.

The next move by the parliament was the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill on the 4th of December, 2019. This is now called the Citizenship Amendment Act, and it has invoked nationwide protests on several grounds. The primary one being its absolutely discriminatory clause of assigning citizenship to immigrants based on religion. This outrightly violates the Indian constitution, on the grounds of sovereignty and democracy. Those who opposed the Act were charged as criminals and rioters.

India Falls To 51st Position In EIU’s Democracy Index

These two instances are not all. For the past five years, this country has been witnessing many such examples, which completely emphasise the strong violation of democracy and a direct effort towards building a Hindu Ethnic State.

And this was further reinstated by India’s global ranking in the Democracy Index, in 2019; we slipped 10 places, to 51st! The Economist Intelligence Unit cited “erosion of civil liberties” in the country, as the primary cause for the downtrend. India’s score in 2018 was 7.23 which has gone down to 6.90 in 2019.

What Does This Index Tell Us About The Prevailing State Of Democracy In India?

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is an annual survey, which rates the state of democracy across 167 countries, based on the following parameters; electoral process and pluralism, political participation, the functioning of government, democratic political culture and civil liberties.

The index indicates which democracy has been eroded around the world in the past year. Then, based on the scores, the countries are divided into four category regimes consisting of:

Full democracy– The scores greater than 8

Flawed democracy — The scores greater than 6 and less than or equal to 8

Hybrid regime — The scores greater than 4 and less than or equal to 6

Authoritarian regime — scores less than or equal to 4

Only 22 countries have been classified as “full democracies” in 2019, while more than a third of the world’s population were found to be living under authoritarian rule, including China. Pakistan and Bangladesh have been categorised as ‘hybrid regimes’. The list was topped by Norway, while North Korea was at the bottom.

India has fallen into the category of a ‘flawed democracy’. So, should we be surprised by this? Statics are the numbers that reflect and testify reality.

Ever since BJP came to power, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, India has witnessed numerous crackdowns on civil liberties, ranging from a ban on protests against the government policies, shutting down of internet and mobile network, restricting the freedom of the press, and the imposition of an of a draconian colonial-era law, that prohibits public gatherings.

democracy
The government is far from being of, for and by the people. Students who express dissent and ask questions face attacks. People who challenge the policies are designated as anti-Indians.

Journalists and activists have been targeted in several ways, to the extent that many have stated they feel intimidated, as the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech have been under threat. This stops them from covering stories critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his administration.

The fact is that when a political party comes to power, to form a government, they are supposed to work towards holistic growth and the interest of the nation; that comprises of each and every citizen irrespective of caste, religion and gender.

However, in India, just the opposite is prevailing. The government is far from being “of, for and by the people”. Students who express dissent and ask questions face attacks. People who challenge the policies are designated as anti-Indians.

Critical issues like unemployment and climate crisis do not get any attention, while irrelevant things keep topping the government’s priority chart. The Muslim and Dalit minorities have been living under the shade of constant fear of being oppressed.

This is the ‘new normal’ of new India. As India steps into the 71st Republic Day, it is on the verge of losing the importance of the word republic. This is an awakening call for all of us. If we do not wake up now, we never will!

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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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