This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Government Showed Its Vulnerability With The Pandemic And Climate Change

More from IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Unabashed assaults by human beings on the natural ecological system have caused the virus to spread in the first place. While finding a definite cure to contain the virus, any complacency towards the environment would make human lives more unsustainable on planet earth, said Dr. Simi Mehta while hosting a webinar on Vulnerabilities of Indian Governance in handling the climate crisis amid COVID-19 and recession organized by the Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development at IMPRI and India Water Portal on September 25, 2020.

Climate Change And Government Inaction

Reminiscing the loss of many notable personalities, such as singer S B Subramanyam due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Leo Saldanha stated that lives have become precarious considering the latest developments two decades. Global warming has resulted in the rapid melting of ice caps in the Arctics and Antarctica. Water levels would rise by several meters at the current pace, thereby posing irreversible damages to the island and low-lying countries their populations. Even for India, the vast coastal population is vulnerable. Human lives’ vulnerability has further been exacerbated with the sudden spread of coronavirus, which is progressively becoming asymptomatic.

While applauding and highlighting the problem with the past responses of Indian governments to disasters such as the 1999 cycle of cyclones and pandemics, Saldanha said governments have been using emergency powers such as police powers on the ground. He believed normative governance should accept the state of ever readiness to deal with pandemics. Evident from the cycles of floods in India in metropolitan areas, cities are not even ready for excessive rainfall. This is a result of maldevelopment.

He opined that the Indian governance system has been highly centralized since the 1990s with its neo-liberal policies. It does not recognize people’s wisdom and does not implement the plans and schemes in our constitutions that are really secured with dealing with natural crises. India cannot deal with unnatural crises such as the maldevelopment of cities due to negligence towards fundamental principles of governance.

Since the fundamental principle of governance in India is rooted in democracy, therefore, the government must involve the people in governance operations. But this is far from being true. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments’ heavily centralized structure has been a major reason for making the villages and municipalities unmanageable.

The ruling government ignored parliamentarian’s voices to bulldoze the farm laws.

To ensure transparency in governance, people need to struggle, as evident in the Lokpal Bill’s case, the Right to Information Act, Forest Rights Act, among others. While addressing Adivasis’ plight, who has been seen as inferior since they refuse to accept the private sector’s capitalist model, Saldanha highlighted they have been denied their rights on natural resources and displaced from their lands. They possess an immense amount of knowledge of forest resources. This knowledge is protected under the Biodiversity Act signed in Conventional Biological Diversity as part of the UN Rio Declaration.

Saddened about the non-implementation for Forest Rights Act 2006, he stated that Indian governments have been suppressing the progressive models for one pretense or the other and created emergencies on the ground. He condemned the clinical trials of genetically modified organisms (GMO) by the central government in 9 states amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the Supreme Court has challenged the move stating that it is against food security because it will turn food systems into proprietorship and become genetically contaminated. This is a highly unsustainable move.

Biodiversity needs to be protected from biopiracy; making speeches at international like the UNFCCC would not yield desired results. Addressing the unprecedented forest fires on the west coast of the United States and typhoons on the east coast of the US, Saldanha also highlighted the 600-700 spots that caught fires in the Western Ghats two years back in Karnataka, which the forest department was not able to manage it.

He also addressed that when India’s lockdown was lifted, many industries such as LG Polymers, oil wells in Assam, and others started blowing up and released huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.  Unprepared industries are countering the promises made to the Conference of Parties to reduce carbon emissions.

Trump's India visit

Resources were wasted for Trump’s India visit when the government should have focussed on Coronavirus.

Where The Government Went Wrong During The Pandemic

On the farming front, efforts have been made to monetize farming and snatch the sovereign system of food from farmers’ hands over to the corporate sector. Mr. Saldanha pointed to the structural displacement of democratic governance by ignoring the parliamentarians’ voices and the farmers against the three farm bills.

The natural food from organic farming has also been commodified from the so-called zero budget farming. This has led the lands to slip out of the hands of farmers. Giving examples of land regulations in Karnataka where no clearance is required for diverting commons and agricultural lands for industrial activities, he coined this situation as a land grab, which will lead to dispossession at a time where we should encourage more natural farming, agroecological approaches should include the revival of pastoral communities and non-displacement of fishing communities. These lands are being turned into cities, and cities are building disasters.

Highlighting the research study being done by the Environmental Support Group, he stated that many resources were wasted in preparing for the Trump visit in February 2020 while knowing the presence of the coronavirus in India. The resources could have been invested into building health infrastructure in dysfunctional public health centers in villages to deal with the pandemic.

Recalling the Disaster Management Act, which was passed due to the Tsunami, he underlined that those regions with effective local governments have the greatest capacities of response, relief, and rehabilitation. Therefore the government could have established a decentralized response. By 2008, India had guidelines to deal with pandemics, wherein people are aware of where to get the help from, and help will be provided to them, but when the COVID-19 struck, these guidelines went in vain. Lessons should be learned from countries such as South Korea who created local units to respond to SARS. In fact, Kerala must be applauded for dealing with pandemics.

Government Finances And Capitalization Of Public Spaces

The pandemic has brought the education of a large number of students to a standstill. Online education necessitated a smartphone with adequate data but believing that every student would have access to this was erroneous. The televisions having wider reach must have been used to deliver classes, and mechanisms could have been created for the same. The capitalization of public spaces and prioritizing public sector needs has essentially meant that the public sector has not been a priority for the center.

Mr. Saldanha was worried about the status of the money donated by the public to the PM CARE Fund, which was set up to deal with the pandemic. Further, GST was supposed to be shared between states and centers, but the former has been asked to borrow money because of the latter’s incapacity to pay them their due compensation.

He is concerned that the world moves towards an age where infections would be much more frequent, and current models will not work. The working model would be where every village, ward, and city can survive with their own capacity to cover themselves.

On the way forward, he advised on the need to sensitize the government system to make regulatory practices effective. India needed a decentralized approach where states are empowered and fully implementing the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts. There is a need for intelligent ways to deliver responses to it instead of failing repeatedly and trying to communalize it. The people must keep the governance systems accountable to them- which is the crux of democracy.

By Dr. Simi Mehta and Ritika Gupta, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

You must be to comment.

More from IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Similar Posts

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

By Ashi Gupta

By Chitra Rawat

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below