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How Will The 2021 Budget Affect Young India?

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The Union Budget for the fiscal year 2021-2022 was released today by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. This Budge is the first digital paperless Budget.

On paper, the Budget does promise positive growth and development, but there is a need to look at it further, especially the policies that will impact the youth and affect our future.

Healthcare And A Response To The Pandemic

In the aftermath of the pandemic, the capitalist healthcare system has been left brutally exposed, and its inadequacies were felt by the huge death toll worldwide. Perhaps in response to this, the Budget speech began with a promise for greater spending on public healthcare.

Nirmala Sitharaman said, “A new centrally sponsored scheme, PM AtmaNirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana, will be launched with an outlay of about 64,180 crores over six years. This will develop capacities of primary, secondary, and tertiary care Health Systems, strengthen existing national institutions and create new institutions, to cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.”

Aiims Save Male Nurses
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The government failed on its 2014 promise to start a number of new AIIMS.

This was followed by a detailed explainer of how this money will be spent, with more than 28,000 urban and rural health and wellness centers promised, establishing critical care hospitals in 602 districts and 12 central institutions, and strengthening of the National Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) among other initiatives.

Now, while on paper, if this is followed through, it would make India’s public healthcare sector miles better than what it is now. However, while looking at the Budget, one also has to look at the history of the NDA government in implementing healthcare policies.

Two instances stand out when one has to critically look at the BJP and healthcare. The first of course is their promise to start 13 new AIIMS. A promise that they made when they came to power in 2014. A reality check via an RTI in 2018 showed that not even one had been started. As of today, a paltry number of AIIMS have been completed, and many of them were approved before the BJP came into power.

From more recent memory comes Dr. Anoop Saraya, a doctor from AIIMS who slammed how BJP handled the pandemic and also how they set up on medical and scientific advisory groups.

He wrote in a letter “The success of any advisory group of scientists depends on a culture of openness, independence, and diversity of opinion. Unfortunately, this culture of openness has been conspicuous by its absence when it comes to the government’s scientific advisory bodies on the pandemic, perhaps because most of them comprise government employees.

On paper, what the Budget suggests for healthcare is very strong, and would go a long way in absorbing health crises in the future, but it all depends on the implementation.

Improving The Conditions For Entrepreneurship And The Workforce

One area that the government should be commended on is their proactive role to help budding entrepreneurs and those entering the workforce. The Budget lays out many different incentives and schemes for start-ups in India.

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The government extended several exemptions for start-ups and one-person companies.

The first of which is the extension of the eligibility to apply for Tax-holiday for start-ups, which was extended till 31st March 2022. Nirmala Sitharaman also proposed to extend capital gains exemption to start-ups till the aforementioned date.

The Ministry of Micro, Small, And Medium Enterprises (MSME)’s allocation was doubled. The government also declared a reduction in margin money requirement from 25% to 15%. This is the percentage that the firm owner has to put in of their own money. The government also made it much easier to start one-person companies.

The government also promised inclusive development, with minimum wages applying to all categories of workers and women to be allowed to work in all categories with adequate protection. However, here lies a problem because the government is simultaneously promising better conditions for the workers while eradicating worker’s rights.

Education And Implementation Of The NEP

Education is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the Budget for the youth, in the backdrop of the NEP 2020. The budget speech promises qualitative strengthening of 15,000 schools, as well as the set up of 100 new Sainik schools.

A central University in Leh, implementation of the NEP, as well as enhancement of the Central Assistance to Scheduled Castes students.

Here, the need for discussion goes beyond whether it will be implemented or not, but what will happen when it is implemented. The improvement and addition of universities and schools will only make education more accessible and is a positive move.

However, the NEP will only lead to a weakening of institutions, privatization of higher education, as well as making higher education exclusionary. Many students, professors, and eminent figures in higher education have spoken out against the NEP’s design of handing Public universities over to private players.

Enhancement of the Central assistance to Scheduled Caste students is good on paper, but one needs to consider that institutional murders of Rohith Vermula, Aishwarya Reddy, and many others were not because of a lack of funds on the institute’s side, but deep-rooted casteism and malaise that ensured these funds never reached their rightful recipients.

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The budget promised qualitative improvement in 15,000 schools as prescribed by the NEP.

It becomes a duty of the government to root out the casteism prevalent in all major institutes, but seeing the nature of this government, perhaps that is doubtful. Hence, the responsibility once again falls on the progressive youth to ensure that these funds are used correctly and to battle the caste discrimination prevalent in every major institute.

A Complete Lack Of Climate Protection

Climate is a central issue for the youth of India, as it directly links to the condition of our country and the future that we will inherit. Here is probably where the government lacks completely. The usage of the word ‘lack’ stems from the fact that the Budget did not mention climate protection even once.

There was one mention of renewable energy, and that was the increase in duties for solar energy products to “encourage domestic production.” What is further deadly for the environment in terms of deforestation and displacement are the seven major expressways/corridors.

What makes these even more dangerous is the weakening of environmental laws and the new Environmental Assessment Impact, which will provide more leeway to corporates to exploit the environment.

In conclusion, the Budget comes with its own positives and negatives, but it is simply a blueprint for the future. Where the real crux of the situation lies is how the government will implement it, and whether this implementation will be successful and sustainable.

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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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