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India’s Struggle With Political Incumbency: The Bihar Case

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If a politician wins an election and voters grants them the mandate, the meaning is crystal clear: that the voters have the utmost confidence in the leader, and their hope lies in the leader. Or else, the predecessor must have failed the voters then, and now, he paid the price. But then if the erstwhile politician reclaims the throne for the second consecutive term, that ultimately should mean that they have yielded cornucopia during this tenure. And the voters’ faith lies in that politician for the foreseeable future, hoping for another plethoric developmental transcendence.

Then what if that very politician pulls a “third time’s the charm?” That signifies that this politician is the sole messiah of the State and the opponent cannot hold their grounds against this “Good Samaritan” and so, they will continue to hold reins of the State. Or, perhaps, is this where the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor into play?

There are five states in the country, where the Chief Ministers had held their office for at least fifteen years in a row, three terms per se. But the truth one should know about and comprehend is that those politicians never fulfilled the necessities of voters, and never did they deliver their word post-election.

‘Fifteen Years Is No Joke’

If any politician were ruling a state for fifteen consecutive years, their developmental model would speak for itself. The very soil of the land would vouch for the progress and betterment of the region.

But, after all that governance, if one happens to draw the parallel between the life of the common man from fifteen years ago, and today, one would scarcely find any difference. The darkness has darkened more. The poor from then are poorer today. The crime rate has spiked, (be it caste-related crimes, robbery, or rape), industrial movements saw a steady contraction, corruption surged, per capita income was at an all-time low. But this leader governed the state for fifteen consecutive years, ensuring that the voters’ loyalty, faith, trust lies in that leader.

During his second term, voters’ trust was broken, the state’s economy had hit an abyss, yet he emerged victoriously. What sort of democracy is this? Is there a page in this democracy which quotes there is a system which lets the politician have complete anarchy over the state, and that has nothing to do with the voters, all voters get to do is get inked and say democracy won? This same charade is going to be played in Bihar once again.

The Many Chief Ministers Who Held Office For More 15+ Years

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held the reins of Bihar for fifteen straight years. Again, he is the only face in the Bihar Polls. November 24, 2005, was the day he was elected for the first time as the chief minister of Bihar. He has held his office for fourteen years and eleven months. In between, there was a phase for nine months, or so, when Kumar had rented the CMO to Jitan Ram Manjhi, quoting that he felt defeated in Lok Sabha polls of 2014.

Yet for fourteen years and eleven months, Bihar was under the supervision of Mr Nitish Kumar. It is high time for you to fathom the context of Bihar and live that democracy in which, once every five years, you and I get our finger inked; hail the farce democracy, and continue dwelling in that dark cave engineered by that very politician.

Nitish Kumar isn’t the only CM to hold the office for 15 years or so. Raman Singh had held the CMO of Chhattisgarh for 15 years (October 7, 2003, to December 17, 2018). How good was his governance? Is there any accountability, whether it be in regards to the education system, healthcare, agricultural reforms? For fifteen years, Chhattisgarh has gone from bad to worse.

Then comes Madhya Pradesh, where Shivraj Singh Chauhan held his office on November 29, 2005. He served for thirteen consecutive years. Then, for a short stint, it was Kamal Nath, but later, Chauhan made a back-door entry to reclaim the throne in Bhopal. How good or how bad was his governance? Was there a scarcity of doctors in healthcare? How many new universities were set up? Was there any industrial amelioration? Yes, zero accountability.

Yet voters were busy serving them victories after victories on a silver platter. Naveen Patnaik has held the CMO of Odisha for more than 20 years now. Yes, his case involved the TINA factor. But then, there has been industrialization and corporates have entered the field, all due to a political nexus. If you happen to talk about tribals, farmers, the poor and the marginalized communities, they still are in a huge problem.

Not to forget the supreme leader, Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, who held the office for thirteen years. What is the truth of “The Gujarat Model?” How vibrant is “Vibrant Gujarat?” Whether it was the industrial sector, the agricultural sector, or the education sector, the stylesheet of corporate will eventually become the poor’s lifestyle. As an example, let us look at the number of BPL homes in Gujarat.

Because every politician who becomes the chief minister speaks about poor, tribals, farmers, it is surprising that it is these groups, for whom the conditions are often worsened. The population of Gujarat is 6.40 crore, and the around 1.16 crore houses fall under the BPL criteria. This means that the wealth of the state is in the hands of a few Bezos of Gujarat and, exclusively, their coffers are full. The majority is still struggling. Yet he won the state for three consecutive terms. How? There has got to be a tantra for succeeding in every election inclusive of government institutions.

Representational image.

‘How Does This Happen Again And Again And Again?’

Something tells me of a process consisting of two bits. Firstly, if a party bears the office for so long, corruption becomes a part of the system. Secondly, the law itself starts working for that very corrupt system against whom it should stand firm. This is what happens: the government swallows the law, and the law eventually digests this government and its governance.

Communal and caste divide, Farmers’ suicide, fake encounter, minimum wage issues are the topics for another Diwali. But now it is Nitesh Kumar, who is once again under the limelight, on whom BJP has also been banking upon to breach the fortress of Bihar. Here is some trivia, according to projected numbers, Bihar’s population is 12.4 crore. And around two crores among those are BPL houses. Imagine the plight here!

Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha Seats and has 243 Vidhan Sabha seats. And in this fifteen-year tenure, 85% of parliamentarians have become millionaires. Also, in the last three terms of Nitish Kumar, around 87% of Bihar’s new MLAs have become millionaires.

We are in 2020, and late Abdul Kalam wrote a book for this particular year envisaging to be “The New Millennium.” Yet, here we are standing in the same position, as we were in the early 2000s, with regards to poverty, crime rate, and educational reforms. Imagine how bad did our leaders perform to put us in this same position?

Bihar contributes 1.3% of GST, 1.2% of income tax collection, and only six universities were newly created by the state in the last 15 years. This rate is below par compared to the national average. Healthcare is just ridiculous in the state, where data shows that Bihar has one doctor per 28000 people when the WHO advises around one doctor per 1000 people. Even the Indian government says one doctor per 11000 people is required, and then there is Bihar. The state has the least number of hospitals, as compared to all the other states.

But, no matter what, Nitish Kumar has to be the face, since he has been the CM for 15 years. The criminalization of politics has risen to 75% in the last fifteen years. If we happen to calculate per capita income with rest to state income, yearly per capita income comes to INR 42,242; or INR 3520 monthly; or INR 117 daily. That would be Nitish Kumar’s Doberman’s hourly expense if he had one. Farmers’ income is the least in Bihar, at around INR 3500/month (INR 116/day). Bihar relies upon the mercy of the central government, which happens to be the whole reason why Nitesh Kumar is a puppet in the hands of the BJP.

Once you start dwelling about such plights in a state, it means democracy is transgressing in a way to hand the reign to the beholder for as long as possible. And he will go to any extreme to get what he wants because he has tasted blood. That is that folks; it is you who have to vote. Power will rule over you. You’ll be a decoy in the name of democracy, but since your condition worsens you have to muddle yourself in caste, community and creed, that’s your job!

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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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