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Does The ‘D’ In India’s GDP Stand For ‘Dilemma’? Finance Through The Eyes Of A Commoner

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An affable, or rather timid voice as some may say, asks the finance minister of India the question “when is the government planning on reducing the cesses on fuel…?” to which the IIM-A student adds the horror faced by many commoners of this country when they see “triple digits for single litres of petrol and diesel.”

As the nonchalance breaks, the minister quickly diverts the attention, first by contradicting her statement on the student’s way of speaking and then addressing the issue after a long pause by saying that she “won’t be able to tell when”. She further refers to the situation as a ‘dharam sankat’, a Hindi substitute for what the west will describe as a ‘divine’ dilemma. 

finance minister nirmala sitaraman
Representational image.

Now, a lot of us are not financial experts, including me and we aren’t particularly undermining the skills of Sitharaman, but what does this mean for a commoner? A citizen who barely has any idea about the fancy terms in a highly qualified finance professional’s lexicon would only be able to take away either of the facts: today’s Indian government has no idea what it’s doing to the country’s economy or perhaps some will have faith no matter what.

An egoistic know-it-all supporter of the current government will disagree with me and say that we don’t know better than those who run this country in actuality. An ode to the 80s with the crude oil prices rising in the west as US-Arabia relationships become more and more volatile, a similar trend has been haunting modern-day India as its leaders fail to reassure its citizens of a way out. In reality, the data from energy.gov suggests that on the contrary, U.S pays ½ of what India pays per litre of petrol.

Barclays India, in their report, suggested that India’s sole dependency on fuel taxes will pose to be a threat, feeding into inflation.

The Prime Minister, if we go by his words, on the other hand, seems to have kept everything in check for India’s financial stability. He says, in his rather glib speaking mannerism, thatprice rise is also under check and there is macro-economic stability.” The words break into shambles as Sitharaman fails to give Indian citizens the relief they need in desperate times like these. Some argue that this will only help India shift to electric vehicles but to counter that fact, personal vehicles only consume a minuscule fragment of petroleum’s use in India.

The larger chunk is claimed by the transport and agricultural sector of India at 70% diesel with 99.6% petrol use and 13% diesel use respectively. The price surge for such commodities will affect the larger chunk of the population that relies on public transport for instance or agriculture for daily bread. This coupled with the ongoing situation of partially privatising the agriculture sector poses a threat to the farmers of this nation.

Modi Andolanjivi
The centre says that it’s the reliance on other countries and lack of ‘atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance that is the reason for India’s current economical scenario in energy generation. Representational image.

Why Is The Fuel Price In India Uncertain And Witnessing A Surge?

A short and simple answer to this in layman’s terms is the multi-layered tax structure in India that is a combination of state and central taxes. In addition to this, it’s important to know that fuel in India is largely imported from other countries and the prices aren’t in the hands of the government just yet. The control of the government in this scenario becomes evident when it imposes those taxes on the fuel that oil-marketing companies purchase. The price trend, on the contrary, plummeted in other countries while the prices still soar high in the Indian market.

To answer this, Modi’s government did what it does the best, pinned all the blame on the past.

Talking about the past, India has seen inflation under congress as well and yes, it has affected the Indian economy with somewhat the same severity but the fact that history repeating itself under a government which deemed itself to be different than the opposition, promising to ‘reverse all its mistakes’ has been doing nothing but trying to divert the blame from one person to the other.

The centre says that it’s the reliance on other countries and lack of ‘atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance that is the reason for India’s current economical scenario in energy generation.

It seems as if the government is obsessed with using Hindi substitutes for a very linguistically diverse country rather than focusing on how to solve the problems that citizens face.

Perhaps this helps their agenda of Hindi imposition under the ‘one nation, one language; scheme, which is a topic that’s fortunately not reserved for today. And to sum all of this, we don’t reach a real conclusion rather than the fact that it’s always the mistakes of the past and aspirations of the future that our government has been focusing on while overlooking the present. This ambiguous ending can be perceived as what the government does when it plays the role of a smooth talker, failing to address the concerns and falls into the hole of a never-ending dilemma.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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