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The Left, Right And Centre Of Indian Media: What Does The Nation Really Want To Know?

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As the clock strikes 9, my mother and father run to different rooms to get their daily prescription of Indian primetime journalism. The divergence isn’t their lack of agreement on the ideal room temperature but the absence of a common consensus regarding the news outlet they subject themselves to. On the one hand, my mother prefers watching Ravish on NDTV; my father opts for Rajat Sharma of India TV.

My father’s choice leaves me puzzled since he is the same person who has NDTV English put on permanently in his office. Ask anyone who has the slightest idea about Indian journalism, and he will tell you how these two channels cannot be farther from each other. Upon a lot of deliberation, I conclude that even though he thinks NDTV’s journalism brand is more responsible, he is drawn to the narrative Rajat Sharma builds about the nationalist agenda, BJP, and the man with a self-proclaimed ’56-inch ka Seena’.

Call it my immaturity, but I looked at the news as more of a source of entertainment than information, and thus Arnab was the perfect fit.

My tryst with Indian Media started when I was all of 13-years-old. Though I had seen my father watch Barkha Dutt, Prannoy Roy and Rajdeep Sardesai, it was Arnab who brought the family together at the dinner table. Call it my immaturity, but I looked at the news as more of a source of entertainment than information, and thus Arnab was the perfect fit. Howling away to glory, he would have four people represent one side, and one represents another. All in the name of ‘balanced opinions’.

It was the Congress that was in power in 2013; it would always be a poor Congressman who would be at the receiving end of Arnab’s wrath. You would think that Arnab was anti-establishment and thus targeted Congress, which isn’t a bad thing. The only problem is, it’s 2020, and he is still doing the same. Even today, all the ‘nation wants to know’, according to him, is how Congress is worse than BJP. Demanding no accountability from the ruling dispensation, the BJP spokespersons are inevitably having a gala time in his primetime debates.

There was a time when the news outlets would try to pretend to endorse unbiased journalism, but now, even that pretentiousness is gone. All you have is a bunch of channels unabashedly pushing forward their propaganda. Depending upon the side of the political spectrum you are on, you choose the channel, and then that channel will go on to tell you everything you want to hear. If like a lot of Indians, you associate with the right-wing, you have the luxury of choosing from an array of options. But, if unfortunately, you lean towards the left, the only mainstream choice you have is NDTV.

Though I can’t entirely agree with NDTV on a lot of different accounts (I have always thought Ravish could be a little more positive about the state of affairs and not criticize for the sake of it), I would credit it for coming up with the word ‘Godi media’.

It might seem like an exaggeration but tune in to India TV at 9 pm, and you will see Rajat Sharma (of Aap ki Adalat fame) reading out News like the spirit of a BJP spokesperson has possessed him.

Consider yourself lucky if you find the likes of mainstream news channels such as News18, Zee News, and Aaj Tak debating issues other than Ram Janmabhoomi, and Ayodhya. It doesn’t surprise that the mainstream Indian media thought it would be better to cover a bunch of MLAs hiding in a resort than the Assam floods. The hunger for sky-rocketing TRPs has made Indian Media stoop down even lower than before, which is an achievement.

Yes, people will argue that it is not all that bad. And I agree. For people like Sambit Patra, these times couldn’t get better. For the uninitiated, Sambit Patra is the BJP’s National spokesperson notorious for giving his opponents nicknames such as ‘Maulana’ and ‘Daadhi wale Jinnah’ (a bearded Jinnah) on live television. In a conclave by ABP News, an audience member gave an antidote on how his little daughter, who earlier used to watch cartoons, now insists on watching Sambit Patra’s debates. That sums up the situation the best. Not to say that his Congress counterparts are any better. Everyone wins, except for the audience.

Instead of serving as a ray of hope, the Indian Media has become a bigger problem. It is time for them to reinvent themselves and forgo the short-run profits for the long term benefits of the viewers. But until that time, the audience should use their discretion to decide what should be watched and what not. There is enough hate in today’s times, even without the media contributing to it.

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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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