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Opinion: India Needs A 1967-Like ‘Political Earthquake’ In 2020

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‘Political earthquake’ is the term used for the historic election results of 1967. The watershed year of 1967 saw something unusual and unprecedented – the party which seemed to be the only option for years, the party which many thought could never suffer electoral losses, the strongest of all – the Congress – did terribly in both general and assembly elections! Congress witnessed its lowest ever tally of seats and share of votes since 1952 in the Lok Sabha.

In the assembly elections, it lost as many as nine states (including the state of Prime Ministers – Uttar Pradesh.) The famous saying was, “You could take a train from Delhi to Howrah and not cross even a single Congress-ruled state.” One can easily conclude, it was the first major jolt to the grand old party.

So what accounted for this seismic shift? The action of the opposition.

Indira Gandhi with her sons, Rajiv and Sanjay. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Rising unemployment, economic downfall and price rise were issues vocally brought up by leaders like Rammanohar Lohia who were efficient in realising the urgent need of highlighting the undemocratic and anti-poor attitude of the political dispensation. Bandhs, hartals and strikes were regularly called. These efforts eventually led to fruition. Congress suffered huge electoral losses due to its inefficiency. 1967 elections were a breaking point of the popular perception that Congress was there to stay forever. Most importantly, the call for change was made.

Today After 50 Years, India Finds Itself In An Almost Same Situation.

With record-high unemployment, alarming GDP numbers, and down falling economy, India faces major challenges and just like in 1967, the ruling party appears invincible, infallible – the strongest of all!

What role is the opposition playing amidst these circumstances? How is the main opposition party Congress faring? Loyalists of the grand old party would argue that Congress is endeavouring hard, but the harsh truth is people of India do not repose faith in Congress or Rahul Gandhi. Taking solace from dislikes on PM’s Mann ki Baat would not help. Congress fails to recognise the mood of the nation and the pulse of the people.

Rahul Gandhi has become what people call a ‘drawing room leader’ who is more active on Twitter than on the ground. Ironically, the majority of India doesn’t even exist on this microblogging site.

In short, Congress has failed the people of India as the opposition. India deserves more, it needs a strong opposition which can expose the fault lines in administration, which can win the trust of people. But the reality is ugly.

Let alone exposing the fault lines in administration, Congress doesn’t have its own house in order. Rather than passing resolutions against the regime, they are passing resolutions against their own leaders. Congress’ Lakhimpur Kheri unit, Uttar Pradesh, sought action against Congress leader Jitin Prasada for writing to Sonia Gandhi. This is enough to show that Congress has been reduced to just one ideology – ‘parivaarvad‘. Thus, there is little expectation from Congress. It is almost as if there is no other party (other than the ruling party) left in the political landscape of India.

At a time, when the opposition seems to be in no mood of doing its business what can be a possible solution? Youth.

Rahul Gandhi has become what people call a ‘drawing room leader’ who is more active on Twitter than on the ground.

Youth: The Opposition India Doesn’t Have

The youth of this nation should take the responsibility of exposing the fragilities of government. Until the young minds of this country start thinking about the collective good, India cannot become a world power. I call upon my comrades to understand that no political party presently is serious enough.

All parties are busy filling their coffers. ‘Revolution’ would be a big word to use, but a ‘movement’ is surely something we need. Our future is what we should resolve to carve on our own. As they say, we have to fight for our right! So, how can change be brought in? One cannot lay down a complete roadmap. But one thing is sure, by asking questions and showing dissent, the establishment can be made more accountable.

For asking questions, one needs to be, in the first place, more aware and sound of the political happenings. Each young person must assume that he or she is the opposition in this country. He or she is bound to assess the government’s policies and to figure out whether they are in the nation’s interests. We need to engage in politics. After all, politics is not a spectator’s sport, it’s an active sport.

You and I have to do exactly what the opposition did in 1967. So let us pledge to ask questions, let us pledge to be less complacent, let us pledge to drop the ‘chaltaa hai‘ attitude because it’s high time now. Change is what we want!

[The writer is an 18-year-old resolved to see a change in the system]

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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.

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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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