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As Rafale Fighter Jets Land In India, How Should India Navigate Its Defence Sky?

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The first batch of the much-hyped Rafale fighter jets took off from France’s Merignac airbase near Bordeaux on 27th July, 2020, and are stated to reach Ambala on 29th July, 2020, after a one-day stopover at the French Al Dhafra air base near Abu Dabhi. An official ceremony will be held to formally induct the fighter jets to the Indian Air Force, giving wings to India’s defence abilities, tactics, strength and deployment.

This step is important from India’s perspective, given its frequent skirmishes and trade-offs with China, followed by brewing hostilities with Pakistan. This policy decision by the Indian political and security establishment is being referred to as a major milestone, keeping in consonance the stated objective of physical prowess, might, clout, caliber and command of the Indian State.

Also, later this year, Russia might provide S-400 missiles system to India. This step is aimed at checking and containing the expansion of the ambitious China in the Indian region. Russia, being an old ally of China, has already bluntly refused S-400 missiles to the latter. This is being understood and taken as a victory for India’s strategic diplomacy, scaling up to a new high after the re-election of the popular right-wing government being run by the BJP.

The Rafale deal is important from India’s perspective, given its frequent skirmishes and trade-offs with China, followed by brewing hostilities with Pakistan. Source: Getty Images

These deals are being cited as a key reference to attack India’s fierce critics and opponents. Alongside, these steps have also excited the minds and hearts of people with pride, passion and patriotism. This has enhanced and boosted the domestic ratings of the Modi-led government.

The purpose of the deals has been grossly misinterpreted in terms of the aspirations and ideals of a constitutional democracy, and has brought a disrepute to difference of ideas and opinions.

I believe that at the defence level, we need to build partnerships in order to promote cooperation, coordination and collaboration while settling our disputes and differences in a negotiated manner. However, as hard as it might sound, efforts should be made on amicably resolving our border matters and issues in a way that seeks honour and regards others’ security and sovereignty, unwarranting any situation of stand-offs and trade-offs that might belly the aspirations and beliefs of people.

The violent ambush in Ladakh between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the intervening night of 15th and 16th June, 2020 resulted in many casualities on both the sides, even as the Chinese establishment tried to hide the exact data on the causalities inflicted on their end. This led o a rage and fury in Indian against Chinese goods and items, as they were up with their boycott calls for Chinese products. In their rage, they broke and destroyed whatever they had at their end. They sounded discontented, and were motivated and encouraged by the penchant of right-wing rhetoric.

India has the legitimate right to upgrade its military makeover by building its own strategic set of strength. This can be of great value with the induction and addition of Rafale fighter jets navigating our defense skies and space as we become more conscious and guarded in our approach.

Many believe it to be the Chinese technique of derailing peace proposals to deflect the attention of its people from the brutal suppression of the pro-democracy supporters in its autonomous region of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a special autonomous region located in China, up against the attempts and efforts of the Communist government in China to merge the region with mainland China. This has led to a lot of disquiet, as people have been demanding the resignation of Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam.

Also, since the coronavirus, which began spreading from China’s Wuhan, many saw the Chinese incursion and encroachment into India as an exercise to expand its dominance and legitimacy into the South Asian region, believing it to be giving impetus to its assertions of a dominant world power.

They have been seen as wisely wanting to exploit and benefit from the ongoing China-US trade feuds, pulling up foreign investments, infrastructure and innovation at any cost. India has the legitimate right to upgrade its military makeover by building its own strategic set of strength. This can be of great value with the induction and addition of Rafale fighter jets navigating our defense skies and space as we become more conscious and guarded in our approach. The behaviour of the said actors in the international trade and defence arena is illusionary, as there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, and there is always a scope for makeover as and when needed.

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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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