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The Unknown, Unvalued Corona Warriors: The Truckers Of India

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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.

Starting from medical and paramedical staff, followed by law enforcement agencies, administration, and police, the list of Covid-19 warriors expanded during the longest lockdown world has seen. But the list has completely neglected a bunch of workers who have been working in extremely vulnerable situations: the truckers of India.

for representational purpose.
Truck drivers ferrying workers.

To contain the spread of coronavirus the government imposed a tough lockdown that was extended thrice, India not only has been running its essential services but has managed to maintain its supply-chain with the help of the workforce labelled “Corona Warriors of Covid-19 Warriors” by the government. Although many unknown warriors are waiting to be acknowledged.

“Truckers, who lay a major role in the country’s supply chain and have been continuously working through the lockdown in tougher conditions, helping the nation move even during the darkest hour, are the ones always neglected”, says Raghav Arora a transporter.

“State borders were closed, police had blocked the highways at some points. Most of the roadside Dhaba and repair shops were closed; Dhabas usually serve the truck drivers but they weren’t available. Yet, the truck drivers who were ferrying materials from all corners of the country managed to deliver supplies across different states”, added Arora.

According to the transporters, truckers of India ship more than 60% of the nation’s freight. When most of the businesses came to a halt, truckers were supplying the necessities. They are warriors because despite being at a high health risk of getting infected with the disease, these were the lot who kept working to supply the products and essentials to the market and other parts of the country to keep rolling the farm dependent economy of India. But lockdown due to Covid-19 virus was not the only challenge they’ve had to face.

“Although I was travelling on the same route, it seemed a whole new world. Police check posts, diversions, and barriers everywhere passing through all the check-posts with no food, our staff of three somehow managed to deliver the freight without eating anything for three consecutive days”, told Amar Nath, a truck driver remembering the havoc he had to face while on duty.

Amar Nath has been delivering essentials during the lockdown, but he found himself in trouble when after delivering the produce on his way back, the empty lorry was stopped at Jagadhari in Yamunanagar district of Haryana. He and his son Rinkoo, who works with him as a helper, had to pass days in their truck cabin without food. After good four days of Lockdown.2, the father-son duo managed to buy an old bicycle and pedalled to their village in the Sharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

“For transport staff and truck drivers who were on the roads during the lockdown without any safety gear, delivering essentials and agricultural produce on time was not the only challenge, this time they had to protect themselves from the Covid-19 as well. And most of them came out as winners”, says, Vijay Mariwala, a transport owner praising his truck drivers and staff who were on duty during the lockdown.

Truckers of India who are yet to be included in the list of Corona warriors didn’t only complete the task of maintaining the supply chain during the challenging times but also became a saviour for most of the stranded migrant workers and harried labours who left for their hometown bare feet.

“I was coming back from Delhi after delivering the goods when I met a person who was the head of the family of 7, he almost cried showing me 1500 rupees in his hand and asked me to help them reach their village in Bihar. As I was also going to Jharkhand, I took them along”, told Ravi Dubey, a trucker who gave a lift to over 50 stranded, harried workers of different routes.

Ravi, who started from Rajasthan, managed to get a kerosene stove and ration from a group of social workers distributing ration in Uttar Pradesh and his truck gave food, shelter, and a ride to home in a nominal price to the stranded workers who found him on their way back to their villages. Several truck drivers have not only continued to serve the nation during the crisis but also helped many who were walking barefoot to cover thousands of kilometres. Yet, they have been completely neglected from the list of ‘Corona Warriors’.

Have a positive story about COVID heroes who’ve been making significant contributions during the pandemic? Publish your story with #EveryOneCounts, a campaign by Save the Children India and the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, with YKA. 

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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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