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What Does The Covid-19 Crisis Teach Us About The Importance Of Socialism?

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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.

The larger majority among us, including me, have spent their lockdown working from home, working out, cutting bangs and baking banana bread, while millions outside have struggled to walk and cycle back to their villages, sometimes barefoot, sometimes hungry and with no water or money in their pockets and have only recently received some respite due to the Shramik Special trains.

But, now that the government has decided to ease the lockdown, isn’t it a good time to ask ourselves,What is going to be our take away from this pandemic?” Do things continue to function as they are or has the COVID-19 crisis merely revealed the cracks in an already punctured system, which calls for larger institutional changes?

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharama, PM Narendra Modi

Three weeks ago, we were coached in ‘Aatmanirbharta (self-reliance)’ by the head of a government, which ironically places disinvestment high on its economic agenda and believes in opening up the country to 100% foreign direct investment. This talk on self-reliance, could either just be lip service, or it may be because nations show a general tendency of leaning towards Socialism, when faced with a crisis.

The coronavirus pandemic has propelled us to re-evaluate our priorities, reopening the debate between wealth and welfare. As of now, countries like Denmark, Norway, and Finland — that believe in bridging inequalities, are faring better against the coronavirus, than countries who follow pure capitalism. Closer home, the success of Kerala with firm roots in democratic socialism makes us wonder if what a pandemic-ridden India needs is not a Gujarat model but maybe a Kerala model.

Today, We’re An India That’s Moving Away From Its Socialistic Ideals

May 27 this year marked the 56th death anniversary of former PM, Jawaharlal Nehru and it feels like the only way to do justice to his memory, is by recalling him through his work. Nehru utilized state intervention in the Indian Economy to bring it out of the initial rut it had been in post-Independence. The policy of ‘import substitution industrialization’ is not lost on us when we consider that the message for swadeshi was embedded in our freedom struggle.

Nehru was in favour of large state-controlled monopolies and cooperative industries but he also encouraged the growth of small-scale industry and implemented a policy of protective tariffs on imports, to encourage domestic production and consumption allowing infant Indian industries to flourish, without being obscured in the competition of a free market.

We are currently witnessing an India that is quickly moving away from its socialistic ideals. Nevertheless, it is to these ideals that we owe, subsidized travel in our railways, welfare schemes for the needy, and why it is at least on paper possible for small businesses to acquire loans from nationalized banks in India. Had the Indian economy completely developed along the trajectory of the US economy, higher education would become impossible within India without raking up student debts and affordable healthcare should be a distant dream.

Nehru was in favour of large state-controlled monopolies and cooperative industries but he also encouraged the growth of small-scale industry and implemented a policy of protective tariffs on imports, to encourage domestic production.

While there is a lot of controversies lately regarding disinvestment, in the context of a newly independent nation, setting up a dominant private-sector, without first raising the purchasing power parity within the Economy through social reforms and tax regulations wouldn’t have made much sense back then.

A dominant private sector that is only concerned with turning profits and not public welfare cannot ensure better services but would only rake up prices and engage as less labour as possible to cut costs and make profits by a huge margin. Public sector enterprises, on the other hand, are not concerned with just turning profits and are required to provide employment as well as goods and services for consumption within an economy at a rate, affordable to the masses.

Our mixed-economic model was able to prevent us from receiving a huge blow during the 2009 global economic recession that dealt a large blow to economies depending on the banking system and credit. India has a natural tendency to lean towards the tenets of Socialism in times of crises, economic or otherwise, which reaffirms why our goals should remain firmly socialist, so that we can guarantee equity for all, in terms of quality of life.

The world shall not be the same after the coronavirus, whether we like it or not. Our world has been inevitably altered, every time we have faced a huge crisis — whether we recall WWII, the collapse of the Bretton woods system or the end of the Cold War era. Any order after it emerges from a crisis cannot function in the same way it had functioned before it, without making some fundamental changes. The only way for us to emerge stronger from this crisis— which we must, is through the acknowledgement of what our learning from it is and through the recognition of what needs changing.

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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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