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Opinion: Will The Post-Corona World Will Be A World of Unfreedom?

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Let’s face the reality. The pandemic of coronavirus, or COVID-19, is here to stay for very long, or at least till we manage to get a vaccine for its cure and be able to produce it to the extent that it becomes readily available to all citizens of all countries alike. The task looks almost impossible, considering our past experiences with providing such medication to those who live on the margins, especially in the global south. However, India can take the lead in this. We have been known to produce valuable life-saving drugs at abysmally low prices. Our pharma sector has been one of the flagship sectors of our manufacturing industries and has earned laurels all throughout the world due to its efficiency as well as price.

Also, it has helped in gaining a lot of goodwill for us especially in the African and Latin American countries which have dilapidated health infrastructure. Very recently, we have sent HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine), the drug which is believed to be helpful in the fight against corona to countries like US, Brazil, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, bringing in applauds from all quarters, be it from President Trump of the US or President Bolsonaro of Brazil.

Yet, this pandemic has also highlighted the inherent weakness of our pharma sector due to its over-dependence of API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) from China. However, the Indian pharma sector can not be singled out for its over-reliance on China for raw materials. The entire structure of the global value chain has become such that no country can claim itself to be completely free from its dependence on China in some or the other from.

But as states learn to stand up after suffering immensely from Corona induced lockdown, they would realise that they cannot do usual business with China and they will have to renegotiate its terms with China at any cost, especially since there has been massive anger rising against China in Europe and America due to various acts of omission and commission by China in hiding facts related to Coronavirus.

We too need to restructure our industrial policy, especially programmes like ‘Make in India’, ‘Stand Up India’, ‘Startup India’ to deal with the new realities of Post Covid World where supply chains would be deeply disrupted and economic anarchy would be the order of the day with states after states looking more inwards for investments and providing job to its own citizens on a priority basis. This is especially concerning for a country like ours that has highly benefited from flow of foreign capital in the last three decades, be it in the form of FDI or remittances.

Challenges are manifold, but so are opportunities. We were not in a position then to shape post World War due to our own nascent emergence as an independent nation very recently. But now we have the required strength and capabilities to shape post corona world and lead it from the front, instead of being merely a passive observer to it. India under PM Modi has shown this kind of resolve in the talks about climate change and solar alliance and can do so further under his visionary leadership.

Post-Corona World: A World of Unfreedom?

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There has emerged a consensus among almost the majority of scholars and thinkers that post-corona world will be very different from the pre-corona world. However, there is no consensus on what shape would it take. There are apprehensions that globalisation would take the back seat and more statist world be a new reality. The all-encompassing state was never too good for the citizenry at large and former communist states are good examples of it. Due to globalisation, this state was cut short which paved the way for democratic norms and gave people more freedom as well liberty in all spheres of life. But now this ‘leviathan’ may come back with more arms and powers at its disposal.

It may seek to renegotiate our term of social contract with it, disproportionately in its favour. The advancement of technology has also empowered the state to go for massive surveillance of citizens and keep a tight vigil on it, all in the name of ‘protection’ of the citizens. And interestingly, it won’t even be despised by a large number of people, considering the paranoia they have developed in their minds due to the current pandemic. So, police-state may also become a reality in the foreseeable future with basic tenants of globalisation- liberty, free movement and freedom- becoming its biggest casualty.

In any case, even during the peak of globalisation in the twenty-first century, free flow of labour was free only by name, unlike ideas, goods and capital. But now even these virtues won’t be free and states would want to curb more and more. The departure of Adam Smith, Hayek and Friedman would pave the way for the arrival of Stalin, metaphorically. And it won’t be good at all for innovations, ideas, dissent and democracy.

Ultimately, it all comes down to the citizens as to how they manage to regulate the state and its affairs in post corona world by creating a fine balance between liberty and health. Considering the crackdown on media in various countries during this time, it won’t be surprising that anyone questioning the narrative of state would not be taken very kindly by the state. If the world would witness State 2.0 with massive power to curb the liberty, there can be no reason as to why there cannot be Citizen 2.0 who is ready to zealously guard his democratic freedom and economic liberty.

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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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