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Have Our Leaders Given Us What We Expected?

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I grew up with the notion that actions speak louder than words; so I try not to be impressed with speeches, announcements, pledges and promises until I have seen them deliver the result.

Needless to say, I’m terribly disappointed with the present government. If you are a BJP supporter, I suggest you stop reading now. My views won’t make you happy, and it’s in our mutual interest that you exit this article. To those of you who expect more from your elected representatives, read on.

Economic Measures And Article 370

Demonetization proved to be a massive failure.

Demonetisation was supposed to be a masterstroke against black money, terrorism funding and fake currency. Its poor implementation, endless tweaking of rules ended up in nationwide chaos. Lakhs of people stood in km long queues for 50 days to access 4000₹ from their own bank accounts. Eventually, it ended up slowing the economy, made 4 lakh people lose their jobs and not a dent was made on black money, terrorism or fake currency. What may have started with good intentions and grandstanding, was a total disaster. Nothing came out of it except some middlemen making a lot of money by changing notes.

GST was something that BJP opposed when they were in the opposition, supported when they came to power and instead of a single simplified tax went on to make the most complex tax system on record. The federal tax system has crumbled with the centre not disbursing states’ share of GST over several months and states having to resort to higher excise on fuel, the one thing being kept out of GST. Several home run businesses with a turnover of less than a lakh a month shut down as the cost of keeping an accountant to file 3 forms of GST every month was more than the profit they were accruing. More unemployment followed.

Doing business in India has always been a challenge for international players. Now when China has become a global pariah, India is still not the top destination for foreign investors despite cheap labour. We would love to become the electronics manufacturing hub of the world but will our reputation defeat our goals? Will Make in India or Atmanirbhar Bharat achieve its lofty goals or become another lost opportunity. Only time will tell.

Revocation of article 370 in Kashmir was something I wholeheartedly supported, as did many in the nation. But many days after revocation, the valley still has limited internet, no tourism or industry and no concrete steps have been taken to open up the economy of Kashmir. The social, economic, and mental crisis affecting people of the entire state has been forgotten by mainstream media and the parliament. How do they plan to normalise and integrate the people of Kashmir? No one knows.

Indian Government In The Pandemic

Indians have had a taste of a prolonged lockdown. We were extremely grateful to be locked safely at home until we began to see the food crisis unfold in the urban poor. The government’s distribution network was unable to provide food to everyone despite surplus reserves and the civil society has been feeding more people than the government in most states. A society that pays taxes should not be needing charity. But every crisis from floods to terrorist attacks to pandemics, asks and sometimes forces citizens to donate to the government’s unaudited funds.

The dillydallying on providing public transport saw the trickle of migrants increase to a stream until it has become a national crisis in itself. After 2 months of being stuffed in one-room tenements, the workers have no money, no food, no patience and no belief in deliverance and have set about heading home- by trains, buses, trucks, cycles or even on foot. The nation has been seeing heartbreaking visuals of poor migrants heading home with children on their backs. What can citizens do except set up food and water kiosks on the way? Anything more significant has to be organised by the people we chose to govern us.


Migrants workers during COVID-19

Migrants forced to walk back home due to the government’s poorly managed lockdown.

We people are easy to please. Give us grand words, eloquent dreams and then nothing else is needed. No one holds the government accountable for anything they promised. We expect to be fooled and let down. We do not hold our Councillors, MLAs, MPs or PM to higher standards. We understand that our duty is to pay taxes and theirs is to make promises and not deliver. That is why they don’t need to work too hard. Election after the election is won on grandstanding, sloganeering, pitching one community or caste against another. And all pre-election promises forgotten in the 5 years of governance.

We refuse to ask questions, do not demand answers. So afraid we are of standing up, that we forget we deserve better. Can we, a nation of 138 crore people produce leaders who can govern us better? Or have we simply stopped looking for excellence?

Jai Hind.
Dr Sarika Verma

ENT surgeon, Gurgaon.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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