This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by abhishek srivastava. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How To Better Use Our Alcohol Post Pandemic

This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The poor are facing the brunt of the sufferings caused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst this, the step of converting surplus rice into ethanol for sanitizer industry and petrol blending has brought lots of criticism on the government and its policy formulation amid COVID 19 pandemic. Several NGOs and civil societies have stated that India is nearing a situation of starvation.

A developing economy, already facing a slowdown, decade-high unemployment rate, and now a prediction of a situation of starvation has seen the situation nearing a disaster with the pandemic. But is it really possible that an agrarian nation that produces record food grains every year may go through starvation conditions? Let’s analyze the facts before we come to a conclusion.

What do pressure groups, NGOs, social scientists have to say on the government’s decision to use surplus rice for alcohol?

  • India already lags in the global hunger index ranking 102 out of a total of 117 nations.
  • The Wire’s analysis shows that India has the required stock of food grains needed to universalize PDS (Public Distribution System) for at least six months. If from the estimated population of 1.37 billion, 1.1 billion are to be provided 10 kg of food grain per month for six months, it will require 66 million tonnes of food grain.
  • The unemployment rate has jumped to 23%, further increasing pressure on FCI (Food Corporation of India) and the PDS system. These issues raised by civil society and intelligentsia means a lot for a country with more than 73 million living in extreme poverty and an unemployment rate rising high at 23%. Does this mean that the government is least bothered about the poor? Or does the government have enough expertise to handle the situation and handle every citizen with equality?
India already lags in the global hunger index ranking 102 out of a total of 117 nations. Representational image.

Firstly, the Global Hunger Index scores are calculated on four indicators – Undernourishment, Child Wasting, the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (that is, who have low weight with respect to their height, reflecting acute under-nutrition); Child Stunting, children under the age of five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic under-nutrition; and Child Mortality, the mortality rate of children under the age of five.

The share of children in India rose from 16.5% in the 2008-2012 period to 20.8% in 2014-2018, the highest in the world, according to the report. The child stunting rate that is 37.9% is also categorized as very high, as per the report. These contribute to the hidden form of hunger, so we can say that India lagged behind largely because of hidden hunger for which the government has already started producing and distributing fortified food grains, and other nutrients through the PDS.

In case of a current situation like this which is largely temporary, if we fight altogether, the most important thing is providing food to eat, irrespective of nutrition value to avoid any starvation-like situation in the near future. For this, the government has already announced a subsidized food supply to 80 crore people. Different state governments have already issued temporary ration cards too.

Dipa Sinha, Assistant Professor at Ambedkar University, also confirmed that around 65 million tonnes of grain would be needed to universalize PDS for six months assuming that the grain is provided to 80% of the population. India has a sufficient amount of grains. In addition to this, the metrological department has predicted a normal monsoon season, the government has already opened the agriculture sector for production. Rabi crops had been harvested, and Kharif crops are being sown. 2000 rupees have been deposited through DBT under PMKISAN Yojana, which means India is all set to produce record food grain in the next six months, which could come up to 300 million tonnes.

corona sanitisation

Secondly, let’s discuss the importance of sanitizers. As per WHO guidelines, frequent washing of hands with soap and using 70% alcohol-based sanitizer during non-availability of water is essential to keep the virus at bay. Alcohol-based sanitizer is too costly in the market and out of reach of poor or low-income group people, because of higher prices of alcohol. The government has already regulated the price of sanitizer but when the lockdown ends, the need and frequency of sanitizer use will increase manyfold, as the threat of getting infected won’t end soon. It will be the responsibility of the government to provide sanitizer at a cheap rate to lower-income groups.

When sanitizers become an essential part of one’s life, most of the alcohol can be diverted towards this industry instead of distilleries for wine, etc. The required amount of revenue could be generated through the sanitizer industry, and it will be easy for states to force a complete ban on alcoholic drinks. This is the time when a new sanitizer industry needs a major push.

Thirdly, the industry could help the domestic economy to revive in the future especially when its predicted growth rate is below 2%. Moreover, we must not forget that India is a mixed economy where a major role is played by the market. Subsidizing all the produced grains could result in a crash of the local market. Producing ethanol from surplus and blending it with petrol as per policy could result in reduced import bills in such a situation of crisis. India is self-sustained in the agriculture industry, and the share of agricultural export in total exports is approximately 12%. This may go down because of the global recession, so producing ethanol for sanitizer and petrol industries from surplus food grains is never a bad idea. In all the cases we are in a win-win situation.

Largely this is a survival cum revival plan, where the only important thing that matters is implementation. Civil societies and pressure groups must come forward and keep a check on the distribution system. What we have should be used judiciously. We have more than what is required. We only need to introduce a proper distribution system and suitable beneficiaries. Recognizing the beneficiary is another hard task on which government must work.

Local authorities and local governments should be made accountable for equal distribution and supply.  The government should plan to distribute sanitizers too, through PDS to the poor and low-income groups, for their safety as they are most vulnerable to the disease. The period after lockdown is the most crucial, we all must stand strong with the government to protect each and every fellow Indian from the pandemic.

You must be to comment.

More from abhishek srivastava

Similar Posts

By Sarika Verma

By Kunwar Nitin Pratap Gurjar

By Survivors Against TB

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below