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Marginalisation: Govt’s ‘Dream Project’ Amidst The Corona Crisis?

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

When the entire world is fighting a common enemy, everyone expects that other externalities must be kept aside and global solidarity emphasised on. However, ones expectations fail as one lives in a fascist regime. The current situation says a lot about how a fascist State acts. It feeds on every circumstance, which is evident—as the State is not failing to appropriate its agenda even in this crisis.

The process of marginalisation continues in full pace, which is ultimately serving the greater goal of the regime’s ‘dream project’. The state of the economy, already in pieces, is now facing the wrath of the corona pandemic. The social degradation seems to be at full pace without any interruption.

However, the political unrest owing to the policies of the State, such as the CAA-NPR-NRC movement, has lost its momentum. Yet, the momentum of hate has been omnipresent for the last six years and has only upgraded to a higher level with the anti-CAA protests, which served to widen the already-propagandist divide between Hindus and Muslims.

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Amidst the crisis of the global outbreak of the disease, the government has not failed to capitalise on the situation. The new normal aimed for 24×7 surveillance on its citizens. However, some may argue that this surveillance is the need of the hour, but it may put the life of citizens under serious threat if its permanency is established.

The concern is not about the present, but the aftermath of this epoch. This is because the policies that have been adopted now have provided the opportunity to control the citizens in the future. With frequent and arbitrary lockdowns being enforced by the State, it is already in the process of becoming the new normal.

In this epoch of crisis, almost every State has tried to tackle it with some kind of measures, like lockdown and social-distancing, but with some sort of prior planning. Unlike some European States, the lockdown in India has been highly unplanned, arbitrary and an unprecedented display of abuse of power.

One must keep in consideration the fact that the Indian population is neither homogeneous, nor a simple horizontal heterogeneity, but vertically heterogeneous with multiple hierarchies, which only deepens the brunt of the crisis.

Struggling with the ongoing economic crisis, the unplanned lockdown will surely push the economy off the cliff. The pain of this crisis would be faced by non-agricultural labourers viz. migrant workers, vendors constituting people from socially-stigmatised groups. This reveals the nature of the crisis, essentially determined by the intersectionality of caste, class, religion and gender.

In India, every crisis is multifaceted; it has not one dimension, but multiple. Taking the instance of ‘social distancing’, which has become a popular worldwide measure to deal with the crisis. When a State calls for social distancing, it must be assured that social distancing doesn’t get converted into social stigmatisation.

In a social set up like India, the mentioned categories of intersections are always vulnerable to this stigmatisation. The socially oppressed castes, including Dalits, considered ‘impure’ by many communities even today, have been socially distanced and are now facing stigmatisation in the name of the State’s call for social distancing. And this call, by and large, serves the goal of promoting the ‘greater idea’ of the regime.

Again, there are low-income daily wage earners who are mostly in informal sectors viz. vegetable vendors and other labourers who have to sustain themselves. The mere package of a sum of ‘n’ rupees and food grains cannot fulfill all of their essential material needs. They have been seen as diseased objects due to their exposure to the open environment.

This is adding to the prejudice against them of being impure, or carrier of diseases or germs. Already situated under the burden of caste and class, women and people from the trans community have been tormented during the pandemic under their various performative notions.

Besides all these, religion plays an important role in differentiating sacred from profane groups. The already-inculcated Islamophobia is evident, seeking expression in the recent incidence of a few cases of COVID-19 in Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. The incident has actually fed the greater agenda of the State.

Media platforms that took up this issue, trying to portray religion as the cause behind the outbreak, have only added more fuel to this agenda. This serves the ‘dream project’ of the regime to perhaps disease-ify religious minorities? Due to this, more communal hatred has accumulated, and has further added to the stigmatisation rather than social distancing.

The term ‘social distancing’ itself is problematic, serving discrimination and othering in disguise. The term for the situation must be ‘physical distancing’ rather than social distancing, as the latter’s literal connotation is problematic and contributes to terrifying marginalised groups. The situation does not need to be tackled by terrifying the citizens with surveillance and stigmatisation, but rather by empowering them.

However, scepticism strikes, call it social distancing or physical distancing. Whatever may be the terminology, it will ultimately manifest socially. With a whole lot of deep-rooted problems in the structure of the Indian social setup and the self-serving agenda of fulfilling the ‘dream project’ of the regime, every crisis is more than a mere event.

It is a grand epoch with complex characteristics which cannot be solved by banging thalis or lighting diyas, but with well-thought-out and inclusive plans, which seem rather unachievable under this exclusionary regime.

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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, 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.

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