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#DemocracyAdda: This Election Season, What Are The Aspirations Of Young Bihar?

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Floods, pandemic and reverse migration adding to the existing job crisis, Bihar—the only state to hold elections amid this pandemic—is struggling with myriad issues at the moment. The issues highlight, not just inept governance and inadequate policies, but also the dire need to demand action.

As the state grapples under the economic pressure of reverse migration due to the lockdown, the burden on the public health systems due to the virus and the floods, unemployment among the youth, it is imperative that a dialogue must be initiated to find solutions.

With Bihar gearing up for election this October, it is critical to throw light on these issues. With one of the highest youth populations, the state also needs reforms in its education system and upskill its youth to help them enter the job market. So, as various parties eye the election, who is addressing all of this? We must talk about this and more.

#DemocracyAdda, Bihar: An Attempt To Bridge The Gap Between The Youth And Policymakers

In recent years, the larger mainstream media debates have somehow missed on the voices of the youth. Democracy Adda is an opportunity to bridge the gap between young people and policymakers.

Democracy Adda is an attempt bridge the gap between the youth and policymakers

In this edition of #DemocracyAdda, we raised some critical issues surrounding Bihar.  The debate brought together several political leaders from Bihar such as Guru Prakash, spokesperson, Bharatiya Janata Dal; Prof Manoj Jha, spokesperson Rashtriya Janata Dal; Amrish Ranjan Pandey, National Secretary, Indian Youth Congress, and Nikhil Mandal, spokesperson, Janata Dal (United). The discussion was moderated by RJ Anjali Singh.

Here are the highlights of this one-of-a-kind open dialogue, where youth raised not only their questions and concerns but also urged their decision-makers to think about, deliberate and actively address these issues.

1. Must Bihar Conduct Elections Amid A Pandemic?

“The decision entirely depends on the election commission. The discussions so far hint that the elections will be conducted as per the schedule with proper preventive measures,” Nikhil Mandal.

The pandemic stresses on social distancing; the floods push people together in their struggle for survival. When we talk about preventive measures, do we also take this into account?

One of the only states going into elections amid a pandemic, Bihar has its own set of problems to address before the various political parties and leaders go into the ‘election mode’. In the new normal, the campaigning has gone online with an attempt to engage with the voters through various social media platforms. But how successful are the people in voicing their concerns?

2. On Bihar’s Migrant Crisis

“None of us raised our voice during the entire migrant crisis. No matter who forms the government, the people’s issues must not be sidelined,” Prof Manoj Jha.

About two million people walked home to Bihar during the lockdown. With a 46.6% unemployment rate in state in April, the state’s work sector was in no shape to absorb such an influx. The state recently added the names of two lakh migrant labourers who had returned, to its electoral roll, will their issues also get the same acknowledgement?

“Bihar is ‘labour surplus’, perhaps we need to come together and think about a concept of ‘home state’ and ‘host state’, where Bihar could constitutionally become a medium of supplying labour throughout the country,” Guru Prakash.

Further throwing light on various government schemes in place to tackle the migrant crisis Guru Prakash also said that “Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana guaranteed employment for 125 days to all those who returned. Under, Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, about 2 crore 38 lakh women in Bihar are getting a fixed amount transferred to their bank accounts for the next three months. About 1200 crore rupees have been distributed among 60 lakh farmers so far. The government has done everything in its capacity.”

Capitalising on the state’s human resource is a great idea, but the question in front of the state is not of outsourcing its labour but of absorbing the ones who returned home. There’s a need for the government to also look at creating more jobs and strengthening its businesses and industries in the next few years. This perhaps will be the right step in the direction of strengthening its economy as well as its human resource.

“The state is not just behind in terms of industrialisation; it’s also behind in education, job creation, etc. The migrant crisis has only brought to the fore the various other issues that plague the state. The Nitish government has been in power for almost 15 years now, and what’s missing the most is the political will. The government has been unable to provide the atmosphere for industries to thrive,” Amrish Pandey.

While the government conducted skill mapping for almost 20 lakh labourers since May and promised to create jobs, the ground reality seems to be slightly different from the state narrative and official figures.

3. On Bihar’s Education System

YKA user from Bihar, Saumya Rastogi asks her question to the panelists during the discussion.

Delay in academic sessions at Bihar universities is a yearly issue faced by students. YKA user Saumya Rastogi raised this question to the panelists asking them to throw light on how the government plans to resolve this for good. Answering her question here’s what Nikhil Mandal had to say:

“In the last 15 years, several universities and colleges in the state. But there have been several major steps taken by the government and the situation is much better than what it was in 2005. Since 2005, 15,613 schools have been opened in the state. The government also provides scholarships and schemes to help students in need of financial support,” Nikhil Mandal.

The Government of Bihar increased budgetary allocations on education to 25% in 2018-19, the second-highest in the country. In the NITI Aayog October 2019 report, Bihar secured 19th position by scoring 37.3%, among 20 other states in the ‘School Education Quality Index’ (SEQI). Hence merely allocating money cannot guarantee quality education.  The state also reported only 52% professionally trained teachers—implying a failure to adhere to  critical Right to Education parameters.

Often making it to the mainstream news for all the wrong reasons, Bihar’s education system needs much more than infrastructural development. The condition of state-funded schools and colleges despite all the claims of ‘development’ requires significant changes. Many young students still migrate from the state in search of better opportunities. The system needs major overhauling in terms of providing quality education and equal access to all.

“Our concern should not be who will win the election; it must be the much-needed transformation in the education system. Over the years, Bihar universities have only become places that conduct exams. We must look at immediate course correction. The governance in Bihar has to move beyond a spectacle, the blame-game we often enter benefits no one,” Prof Jha.

“In every index, whether it’s poverty or education, Bihar ranks last or second last. Kids die of snake bites, and our medical facilities lack such basic vaccine and treatment. The infant and maternal mortality rate are abysmal in this state. The roads are in a condition that makes a 10km journey 45-mins long. We don’t have an adequate number of classrooms or teachers either. We have to realise what exactly we mean when we talk about development. The reality of Bihar is better captured in pictures of migrant workers across the nation,” Amrish Pandey.

4. On Annual Floods In Bihar

YKA user from Bihar, Anshu Kumar raised a critical question to the leaders during the live about the annual flood situation in the state. She asked the panelists why Bihar continues to struggle with floods every year, and what steps need to be taken to address this issue.

YKA user from Bihar, Anshu Kumar asks her question to the panelists during the discussion.

Bihar floods are an annual affair, the mainstream ignores the issue, the government provides relief measures, people lose lives and livelihoods, water recedes, and it’s forgotten for the rest of the year.

Talking about the present situation in the state Nikhil Mandal said, “Several regions in the state are prone to floods. The government has done a lot to provide relief measures to the people affected. Over 8 lakh people have been provided with financial relief so far along with food grains, etc.”

“The situation this year is a difficult one I agree. The government, it seems, was ill-prepared for the double whammy of floods and the pandemic. Response to either seemed inadequate. The government was either not prepared or chose not to be prepared,” Prof Manoj Jha

Every year, the rains bring massive amounts of water down from hills in Nepal to northern Bihar, flooding hence is a regular event. Then why don’t the government plan better than quick fixes such as evacuation and relief schemes? Is there no effective way to contain the destruction—at least that of property and human life? As floods become a more frequent and destructive yearly affair, perhaps there is a need to revisit the present policies?

5. Where Are The Young Leaders Of Bihar?

Bihar’s young population needs to play an active role in its electoral politics and actively push for a space for young leaders from the grassroots. Youth must not just demand more accountability from those in power but also the inclusion of their interests while formulating policy.

However, is it possible without young leaders entering politics? Can someone from the grassroots really aspire to join politics in Bihar? Most importantly, how can we make that space for the youth in Bihar’s political landscape?


“The politics must not favor the privileged and close the space for young people to partake. It is essential that we move away from dynastic politics and encourage young youth leaders to come forward,” Guru Prakash.

A country with the highest youth population does not reflect the same demography when it comes to political representation. If we do not have adequate representation, can we expect that the system will exhibit a fair representation the issues of its youth population? We hope to raise such questions, and more in the next edition of Bihar’s #DemocracyAdda stay tuned!

You can catch the full discussion here:

Youth Ki Awaaz would be continuing to raise issues and creating dialogue around the upcoming Bihar Elections through a series of features and interviews with leading political leaders for the State as a part of Democracy Adda Bihar. Be a part of the conversation here and follow live updates on Twitter #DemocracyAdda.

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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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