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Is It Fair To Call The ‘Kerala Model’ Of Fighting COVID-19 A Communist Success?

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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.

A massive attempt to glorify the activities of the communist party and Pinarayi Vijayan is going on. A recently published article in the prominent American daily The Washington Post wrongly attributed the historic progress of health and education in Kerala achieved over the past years to the success of communism through the 30-year-long CPI (M) rule.

The ‘Kerala Model‘ to fight against COVID-19 is not a communist model. Factually, the advancement of Kerala on the enlightened education and public health arena long precedes the communist era, starting from the period of erstwhile princely states. We need to think about why the States of Bengal and Tripura, after many years of continuous communist rule, do not show the same system. The success story of Kerala simply manifests the State’s vision, modernity, unity and mutual efforts — rooted in the spirit of renaissance, progressive thoughts, science, arts and hard work since the pre-independence period.

The incredible work done by social reformers, scientists, the Nehru government, Five-Year Plans, the Congress governance over the years, and other successive alliances has led to the development of the present Kerala Model. Communists too, have contributed to it. So clearly, it has been a non-partisan effort.

Kiosks set up in Kerala for COVID-19 check-up. Photograph: Arun Chandrabose/AFP via Getty Images

The period of Congress-led government during the long 25 years between 1961 and 1986 is considered the highest growth period in Kerala’s healthcare sector. The government established medical colleges, improved infrastructure, and increased the number of hospital beds in government hospitals from 13,000 to 36,000. The successive governments, both Left and the United Democratic Front, till today, continued this culture.

The present LDF government has worked extraordinarily, compared to many other Indian States and external regions. At some point, though it is truly disgraceful that a Chief Minister like Pinarayi Vijayan has deployed a bigoted cyber army, similar to the right-wing army and PM Narendra Modi, to project the image of a superman, even after side-lining an exceptional colleague of his own cabinet — a proud woman, Health Minister Shailaja Teacher.

The MPs of Kerala include Rahul Gandhi, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Hibi Eden, and V.K. Sreekandan, who have done exemplary work to combat COVID-19. Dr Tharoor is the man who spearheaded rapid testing of samples in Kerala. Hence, the development model of Kerala is a model of unity, inclusiveness and progression.

The people of India recently learned of the level of BJP’s corporate IT cell, with the party taking full credit for the long list of achievements India made over the past 70 years, starting from the legacy of Pandit Nehru, through multiple Congress, UPA and non-Congress governments.

Obviously, the Keralites are now showing the world the best approach i.e. the Kerala Model to combat the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone must congratulate the doctors, nurses, medical staff, para-medical staff, health workers, police personnel, volunteers, the Chief Minister, Health Minister, public, and the entire political leadership of the state; including the opposition led by Ramesh Chennithala for standing together after putting aside all differences.

It’s quintessential to give due respect and credit to the great reformers of the erstwhile Travancore and Cochin Kingdoms and the democratic post-independence governments led by both Left Front and the Congress party. Just like the famous saying “Rome was not built in a day,” the successful Kerala Model of development was not built in a few days, months or years, and it can be substantiated by several historical facts and pieces of evidence. Projecting the iconic and inclusive Kerala Model as a communist model is unfair, wrong, and a grave injustice to many of the social reformers, Gandhians, Nehruvians, liberals, and centrists whose contributions are indomitable.

It’s time for a united action at various realms, to fight and overcome this terrible ordeal through sincere work and correct information. Moreover, elected governments are constitutionally bound to serve the people with responsibility. Any petty attempt to make political scores and vote bank, using crores of money for PR and advertisement in the midst of a deadly pandemic, is completely condemnable.

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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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