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How The Left’s Lal Salam Lost Relevance In West Bengal

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A party that swayed West Bengal for more than three and half decades, in 2011 Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress ousted the left front government led by the CPIM. This was a big political headline of the state. The friendly Alliance of CPIM and Congress could not find their road map in the 2016 Assembly election.

Singur, the political hotbed that changed the entire politics of West Bengal

singur tata protest
In 2006–2007, the left front government faced severe headwinds from anti-land acquisition movements against the government.

Singur is in Hooghly district of WB. In 2006, the then Government of WB led by CPIM decided to acquire 997 acres of land to set up TATA Nano Motors Factory in the district. There was no compensation taken for the landless agriculture workers and many rural households who were indirectly dependent for their basic needs on land and agricultural activities. Agitations start at the location against the then state Government’s proposal.

Many political parties, NGOs and intellectuals joined together in the protest against the police atrocities. Mamata Banerjee announced an indefinite hunger strike against the land acquisition at Singur.

In 2006–2007, the left front government faced severe headwinds from anti-land acquisition movements against the government, resulting in Mamata Banerjee led TMCs victory in the election.

Since the defeat in 2011, the CPIM has consistently declined in its votes share and currently, the left does not have a single seat. The party’s vote share has declined from 33.3% in 2009 to a mere 3%. The left rapidly went downhill after the government was voted out of power in 2011 from the state.

The left front couldn’t connect with masses and it failed to lead constructive social movements when they were in power. Every time, the party talks about capitalism and globalisation, which is irrelevant among the masses. It is also unable to transform the leadership to the youth across the nation.

People do vote for new ideas and issues which are relevant to their livelihood and interest. In 1996, the CPIMs decision not to participate in the government was a historic blunder. The comrades didn’t allow the then West Bengal CM to become the Prime Minister and later Jyoti Basu and his party accepted that it was a “historic blunder”. The party could have expanded its organisation at the national level.

BJP Demonstrate In Kolkata
Indian supporters and party workers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wear masks of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and flash victory signs as they celebrate on the vote results day for India’s general election in Kolkata on May 23, 2019. (Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

After 34 years of rule, the red was dethroned by the TMC and over time, the red faded away from West Bengal. The political sphere of West Bengal has changed now. The left front that ruled seven consecutive terms has lost its identity.

The BJP has gained more votes than the left front. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had 17% of the votes share in WB and in 2019 the BJP got 40.25%. The lotus has started blooming now. Mamata Banerjee’s s TMC also gained 3% votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

The left has lost a big number of votes because all voters of the left front have shifted to the BJP and TMC. The BJP is rightly able to make a deep inroad on the upper-middle-class non-Bengali business people.

With less than a year to go for the West Bengal Assembly Election’s, political parties are tempting their voters through polarisation and political appeasements. The left front struggles to get back their own lost identity in Bengal to regain it’s lost identity; it needs a reinvention.

In 2016, the TMC were able to dislodge the alliance of CPIM and Congress from Bengal easily. In 2016 BJP couldn’t perform well, but the 2019 Lok Sabha results make the BJP a tough opponent against the ruling TMC government for the upcoming 2020 assembly polls. Mamata Banerjee’s principal challengers are the BJP. Let’s see which way the wind blows.

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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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