Nationwide Unrest, Economy In A Tailspin, Is Brand Modi Finally Losing Its Sheen?

In 2014, the people of India voted PM Narendra Modi to power with an unprecedented majority to enable him to fulfill his promise of “acche din”. Five years later, the prophesied “acche din” are still eluding them, and in fact, things have taken a turn for the worse on the economic front. Despite this, the people saw PM Modi as their best bet to change their lives for the better and blessed him with an even greater majority in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

With the 2019 general elections establishing BJP as the dominant force in the Indian polity, it was widely held that in the second term of the Modi government, the development will now take the driving seat and Hindutva majoritarianism, which had cast its dark shadow on his first term, will finally be relegated to the back seat.

Narendra Modi and Amit Shah celebrate the party’s 2019 win at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi. (Photo: Amit Shah/Facebook)

Fast forward to a few months, and on the very day on which Mahatma Gandhi lost his life in 1948, a 17-year-old, inspired by the ideology of his killer opened fire on a procession carried out by the students of Jamia Millia Islamia against a law which for the first time, makes religion a basis for Indian citizenship.

But no one is taken aback by this incident as this happened in the immediate aftermath of a minister denouncing all the protestors as gaddars (traitors) and egging the crowd in his rally to shoot them. It took the BJP only a few months to descend from “sab ka sath, sab ka vikas aur sabka vishwas” to “Desh k gaddaro ko goli maaro.”

To everyone’s dismay, from the beginning of Modi 2.0, it is the divisive socio-cultural agenda of the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS that has dominated much of the discourse in the last few months—as the economy continues to languish under the cruel apathy displayed by the government. As the growth of the country continues to hit historic lows, the polarising agenda of the government is showing no signs of slowing down, and in the aftermath of the nationwide protests against the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act, the levels of communal vitriol being spewed by the leaders of the ruling establishment have now reached a new peak.

The wounds that the bloody partition left on the collective psyche of the country have still not healed completely, and by constantly scratching those wounds for their petty political motives, the BJP is playing with fire—a fire that can quickly set the whole country ablaze. And with it as collateral damage, the dreams and aspirations of millions of Indians would also get reduced to ashes.

The reality is that India has already lost a whole decade of growth to the policy paralysis in the second half of the UPA government and inept handling of the economy in the first term of the Modi government. Ever since the 1991 reforms, which opened the doors for tremendous progress and growth, India was being viewed as a bright spot in the global economy and a democratic alternative to China by the international community. But now, India is proving to be a drag for global growth, and our democratic credentials are also under question.

The section most affected by the non-performance of the Modi government on the economic front is the youth who are also the largest support group of the PM and played a pivotal role in bringing him back to power. The country is reeling under a massive unemployment crisis and to generate jobs, we need investment. But the most basic prerequisite for investment is peace and tranquillity as no one would like to invest in a country torn by religious hate and bigotry. By trying to create a wedge in the society based on religion, they may reap short term political dividends but long term instability in the country.

A protester holds a placard during a demonstration against India’s new citizenship law in Mumbai on December 27, 2019. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

The PM should realize that you cannot keep the people of this country in a constant state of adrenaline rush by serving high doses of communal and nationalistic rhetoric, and sooner or later, the reality will catch up. This euphoria will give way to a sense of disillusionment—as the economic downturn starts to hurt everyone.

If the recent setbacks for the BJP in the state elections have shown anything than it is the fact that PM Modi’s ability to pull the state elections in favor of his party has dwindled in the face of non-performance of its state units. It is a message for the PM that constant failures to deliver on the promises he made to the people may soon start putting a dent on his credibility and the trust that people repose in him.

The Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah may take heart in the fact that the large part of the opposition, which failed to adapt to the changing dynamics in politics, is in a comatose state and poses no serious threat to the BJP. But one thing that BJP’s chariot coming to a halt at the state level in the last couple of years has taught us is the fact that one factor which always remains a constant in Indian politics is the unpredictable behavior of the voters.

The ruling establishment should set aside its hubris and recognize the fact that even a day is a long time in Indian politics and here we have more than four years left for the next general elections.

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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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