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Opinion: Congress Needs To Reinvigorate Its Leadership Role

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The open letter by twenty-three senior Congress leaders to Ms Sonia Gandhi published by a leading English national daily illustrates a chilling confession of the increasing amount of disdain, disillusion and disgruntlement in the rank, file and cadre of the party. Largely, as an outcome of the leadership command and crisis which has become the defining characteristic of the grand old party after the 2019 general elections verdict as the party seems to be lost in transition unable to attempt bounce back.

There is an overlying dependence either on Rahul or Sonia Gandhi whenever the party finds itself in troubled waters as for the senior leadership of the party who believe that the Gandhi’s are the best bet and alternative if the party has to stay united, relevant and purposeful before the electorate.

Giving up on efforts to restructure, reshape the hierarchy and organisation of the party at the grass root singularly mattering the most as ideology catches next but what if the organisation is crumbling?

A look at Congress state units is a case in point where a competitive flair in leadership roles has always added to the growing sense of unease and discomfort haunting the party’s existence and expansion electorally and otherwise. It is for this reason that young turks like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Hardik Patel have always countered and contested the roles, duties and responsibilities assigned to them leading to wider dialogue and deliberation seen by a few as stoking resentment and rebellion.

The central leadership of the party should display assertiveness in dealing with the differences of opinions and views influencing and impacting the inner-party functioning lowering the morale and conviction of the party activists, workers and cadres. I believe that dissent should be encouraged, appreciated and acknowledged over anything for it to give an objective sense of purpose to the beliefs and aspirations of those drawing inspiration from the party’s ideology.

Producing and promoting a strict set of disciplinarian code and conduct aimed at instilling patronage, obedience and loyalty are totally unwarranted and uncalled for in the Congress, given the point of time and history where we currently find ourselves in.

The idea of India has come under tremendous attack and assault by those forces who have always doubted at the so-called model of liberty and secularism antithetical to the conception of individual rights and duties.

A better balanced Congress would have surely taken the occasion to situate itself as an ideal alternative whenever they came to talk to champion for the lives and livelihood of the people by ensuring their rights and dignity. But willingly, the electorate has become unwilling to promise Congress a claim to power if not for their systematic and structural rejig which could be actualized through all-round consensus, consultations, dialogue and deliberation at every level possible.

I don’t understand what restricts the Congressmen from entering into any kind of engagement; why does it at all require a tacit approval by the Gandhis’ and for how long will you adhere and abide by your dependence to the Gandhis. I am made to buy that there are many who are equally eligible, outstanding and experienced when it comes to taking charge and command in the likes of Kapil Sibal, Ashok Gehlot, AK Anthony, Salman Khurshid and all. They certainly fit the merits of the profile and position and can surely reinvigorate the party in the long by enhancing its stakes high as the Gandhis can look after the buildup of the hierarchy and command by directly reaching out to the people it would seek to represent.

Erasing the title and tag of the party’s inaccessibility and inadequacy to stand up to to the narrative of political challenge and contestations viz the Bhartiya Janta Party as for the Indian National Congress’ broad pan India organizational visibility, presence and channel. It is upon the Congressmen to effect upon any such as Ms Sonia Gandhi asked the members of the Congress Working Committee to prepare her replacement, as Rahul Gandhi lashed out at the signatories of the letter put before Ms Gandhi, considering the fluctuating health of her mother.

For the time being, Ms Gandhi will continue as interim president of the Congress but the point is that those leaders, who signed a letter asking for a full-time CWC leader, are easily approachable and visible to take up the occasion to nominate and elect someone from within their own. Are they doubting their capacity and calibre or for their reluctance on the Gandhis? What better and best explains this fact if not for their letters to Ms Gandhi, leaked by the media, as they ought to come up with a blueprint detailing the roadmap to party’s resurrection, otherwise ending up at the doors of the high command.

In my opinion, Ms Gandhi had already spoken her mind as now it is up to these senior most functionaries to punctuate their afterthoughts.

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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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