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Fail Or Pass? The Government’s Report Card In Tackling COVID-19

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

When India’s most stringent lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I was stuck in Delhi, seeing things changing in front of me. I was witnessing changes that I hadn’t expected. The always crowded and buzzing city became desolated overnight and, one could hear only the sirens of police jeeps on empty roads.

india lockdown

As coronavirus was multiplying around the world, India was waiting for its turn- to get infected with the deadly virus. Nobody had expected the sort of crisis that we are living through.

The virus first originated in the city of Wuhan in China and, then it spread its arms and moved around the world, engulfing the human civilization. When it halted, the world completely (WHO) – World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.

The cases kept multiplying each day around the world during early January and the Indian government kept watching like a mute spectator. But then when the first case was reported in the state of Kerala, a student who had returned home back from Wuhan, the government got notified that the virus had arrived in India.

In the coming days as more cases were reported, Kerala declared a state emergency. Still, the government was not serious enough about the upcoming crisis. When Delhi also reported a case and other states too followed the numbers, the Indian government realized that the virus had really arrived on our doorsteps.

Condition of lockdown in india

Welcome To India

As the virus had arrived in India, the government woke up from hibernation. The cases were doubling each day. There was no model or expert advice taken by the government to deal with the pandemic.

On March 22, PM Narendra Modi came on TV and gave a call for ‘Janata Curfew’ to break the chain of the virus. Shops, public transport, cinema halls, metros were shut. People were off roads. There was a complete shutdown. People cooperated with his call and believed that it would break the chain of the virus. But, in the coming day’s things weren’t the same as expected. The government was not prepared for the crisis ahead.

Days after the Janata Curfew, PM Narendra Modi, as he does always, came on TV again and announced a nationwide lockdown for fourteen days to fight against the coronavirus. He appealed to people to exercise calm. This abrupt news of the lockdown frustrated people.

Thousands of others who were stuck in other cities and couldn’t make it to their homes, like me, were shattered by the news of the abrupt lockdown. My parents were furious with the news.

As the strictest lockdown was in place and the sun was blazing, the working-class people working and living in the major cities of India started to move out in search of food and water. Labourers, migrant workers defied the curfew and COVID-19 protocols to travel back to their villages. With no transport available, they walked barefoot on burning streets with children hanging on their shoulders.

We saw swarms of people moving towards their homes. Some managed to reach their homes but some didn’t and died midway. It was not the virus that killed them but the hunger and thirst.

While most of us who were privileged enough to afford the lockdown were worried about developing a hobby, making dishes, or killing time, there were people who couldn’t afford the lockdown and were on the streets and died silently without making news.

On the other side, Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz was declared a COVID-19 hotspot, and Tablighi Jamaat was blamed for being the conspirators of the virus. Mainstream media pulled out their cameras from the real crisis to polarize the Markaz issue. And, it successfully did. Following this, we saw a backlash of the media’s polarization campaign. Videos went viral on social media.

The virus was called the ‘Muslim Virus‘ and news channels debated its consequences. Congratulations, the media did it again. But the mainstream media forgot to tell us whether the virus had a beard or not. Was it an extremist one or a moderate one?

All this made India one of the worse hit countries by the virus in the world. What the government could’ve done was to act seriously earlier when the cases were less and when there was time. It could’ve acted when crises were unfolding around the world. It could’ve set up a crisis management team to monitor the situation. But unfortunately, the government didn’t pay heed to alarming numbers until things went out of control.

Ordering an abrupt lockdown was not an option at all. If it was, then it was the worst of all. Because the virus is still roaming, alive, and free.

Mir Umar is a student of English Literature at the University of Delhi.

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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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