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COVID-19 Is The Warning We Needed To Re-think City Governance

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In the epoch of COVID-19, the situation of migrant workers and also the resident workers are hard and may get harder if fruitful steps are not taken. The too little too late efforts by the state and central governments have called for city governments to intervene to improve the plight of millions of stranded migrants who are walking to their native places with their children and luggage. To discuss this issue of Migrant Labour Crisis, Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi in association with Department of Social Work, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu conducted a webinar on Re-thinking City Governance Amid COVID-19, with special reference to the Migrant Labour crisis on June 19, 2020.

Perspectives On City Governance During COVID-19

Chairperson Prof. Shipra Maitra, Delhi Chair Professor, Institute of Human Development has made some noticeable points such as the need for resources, finances and capacity building of municipalities to work for workers. She elaborated that role of the municipality in the pandemic is very crucial and with fewer resources available they can still have more effective results but they have to work for every needy out there who is searching for food and livelihood opportunities. She made a point of mid-day meal should be given to all who are needy with the help of supply agencies in the cities and around.

Dr Soumyadip Chattopadhyay, Senior Fellow, Impact and Policy Research Institute and Associate Professor, Viswa Bharti University, West Bengal highlighted that even after 25 years of 74th Constitutional Amendment Act which provides recognition city governments by a revolution of power and function, is not being followed by many states in India. The 12th Schedule of the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act mandates 18 principles to be followed by the city government. But not a single city government has control over all 18 functions. Ambiguities in defining the roles, relationships and hierarchy of SPVs with the urban local bodies have resulted in poor deliveries.

He highlighted that urban local bodies are trapped in a vicious circle where a paucity of resources leads to poor service delivery and thus, poor revenue generation. It is important to identify the functions of municipalities and the weak financial health of city governments. He opined that empowering city government is not a choice but a necessity in the current situation of the pandemic. Professor proposed 3-Fs-Functions, Forms and Functionaries for the effective administration of city governments.

Ms Bharathy Jayaprakash, Chief Financial Controller of Esyasoft Technologies Private Limited stated that transparency and accountability issues prevail. She proposed to harness technology (through Whatsapp) to disseminate information media among the migrant workers. She proposed the need for a local TV channel should cover news at the local level. She also focused on resident workers along with migrant workers. She praised Bangalore for active citizen participation in the times of pandemic. She proposed that psychological counselling can do wonders in these uncertain times.

Where The Government Failed To Work Effectively

Representative image
©picture-alliance/NurPhoto/R.Shukla

The government failed to recognize the transportation needs of migrants in the lockdown.

Mr Raj Cherubal, CEO of Chennai Smart City Limited (CSCL) has raised the importance of decentralized city government institutions for getting the higher output of the policies provided by State and Centre. City governments are dependent upon state government for financial support, i.e., decentralization has stopped at the state level. He exemplifies the city of London where private agencies (SPVs in case of India) work under the city governments not parallelly. He pointed out that the master plan has to be laid out defining each and every element clearly. He asked for building a capacity for cities along with public participation to focus on more on “serious projects” instead of “silly projects”.

Prof. Irudaya Rajan, Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram said that the government is failed to recognise the needs of migrants and also pointed out that while migrants are coming back to their homes. They are stigmatised by people living around and that is a failure of government as an institution who has the responsibility of migrant workers. He made the point while talking about migrants that migration is the birthright of every citizen and they are more worried about life and livelihood and not of death. He proposed an idea of giving smart migration card to every worker so it would be easy for the government to count and for making steps towards helping them.

Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, Impact and Policy Research Institute asked for the elaborative approach of civil society perspective and also asked to follow the footsteps of Chennai and Bangalore towards fighting COVID-19.

Prof. Mangaleswaran, Professor and Head Department of Social Work gave the concluding remarks of the session and pointed out some suggestions to follow on as citizens and as a policymaker for the bureaucrats.

Vote of Thanks was given by Dr N. Rajavel, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, and top panellists and renewed attendees for being present there and giving their remarkable suggestions and solutions to deal with migrant workers problems.

                          Decentralization is the key to City Governance
By Dr Simi Mehta, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)
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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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