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Environmental Laws Are In Place, Now It’s Your Turn!

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“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”

– Lady Bird Johnson

Environment, Law, and Humans — a trilogy exists in the society.

The environment consists of every component of the nature that facilitates human lives to survive and grow. Human resources are vital to convert all the other existing resources (minerals, wind, water, etc.) into usable forms for living beings. Laws are formed to ensure that there is no misuse of the environment and the balance between humans and nature is not broken.

Environmental Laws are the amalgamation of all the state and center statutes, regulations, and common law principles concerning the protection of the environment, steps taken to reverse the climate change and achieve a zero-carbon economy.

For a human being to survive as mentioned in Article 21, there must exist a clean and healthy environment.

“Command and Control” are the two categories in which the environmental laws fall into. Majorly, these laws have three elements

  1. Identification of a type of environmentally harmful activity,
  2. Imposition of specific conditions or standards on that activity, and
  3. Prohibition of forms of the activity.

Some of the important legislations are The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 The Environment Protection Act, 1986 The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, etc.

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”

According to the interpretation of Article 21 by the Supreme Court in Chhetriya Pardushan Mukti Sangharsh Samiti v. State of UP (1990) 4 SCC 449, it was held that every citizen has a fundamental right to the enjoyment of quality life. In the matter of Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh AIR 1963 SC 1295, the Supreme Court quoted and held that: By the term “life” as used in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution something more is meant than mere animal existence.

In Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration AIR 1978 SC 1675, the same court reiterated with the approval of the above observations and held that the “Right to Life” included the right to lead a healthy life to enjoy all faculties of the human body in their prime conditions. It would even include the right to protection of a person’s tradition, culture, heritage, and all that gives meaning to a man’s life. It includes the right to live in peace, to sleep in peace, and the right to repose and health.

For a human being to survive as mentioned in Article 21, there must exist a clean and healthy environment. The following are some of the well-known cases on the environment under Article 21:

In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (1988) AIR 1988 SC 1037: (1987) 4 SCC 463, the Supreme Court ordered the closure of tanneries that were polluting the water.

In M.C. Mehta v. Union of India (1997) AIR 1997 SC 734: (1997) 2 SCC 353, the same Court issued several guidelines and directions for the protection of the Taj Mahal, an ancient monument, from environmental degradation.

In Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India AIR 1996 SC 2721: (1996) 5 SCC 647, the Court took cognizance of the environmental problems being caused by tanneries that were polluting the water resources, rivers, canals, underground water, and agricultural land. The Court issued several directions to deal with the problem.

In Milk Men Colony Vikas Samiti v. the State Of Rajasthan(2007) 2 SCC 413, the Supreme Court held that the “Right to Life” means clean surroundings which leads to a healthy body and mind. It includes the right to freedom from stray cattle and animals in urban areas.

This proves that the pillars of the democracy have played their role, and now, it’s time for the Indian citizens to follow the policy formed, execute their duties, and facilitate to preserve and enhance the natural environment that one person is surrounded by.

It’s the duty of all to take up the initiative and put forward their best foot for the bright and healthy future for generations to come. Laws are of no use until the citizens follow them. Proper execution meets the purpose of drafting the policy and regulations.

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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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