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Opinion: Indians Can Take A Leaf Out Of The Book Of Chinese Ideology

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In the middle of the twentieth century, India and China emerged from largely the same system of colonial tyranny. After more than seven decades, the two giants are holding each other’s collars.

What happened in June 2020 at Galwan, in the middle of a raging pandemic, was a sad and intense geopolitical event. Although the dust has started to settle, it will take a long time before the trust is fully restored. Or, who even knows if things will ever be the same again or not.

Indians are angry at China. And why not? Who comes knocking at your door and then decides to stay there while molesting you? Chinese aggression is something that needs to be fought tooth and nail. But in all this, is there any lesson that India needs to learn from the country on the other side of the McMohan line? I think, yes.

In 1950, India’s per capita income was $619, China’s per capita income was $439. Today, China’s per capita income is about 4 times that of India. Recently, China declared that it had lifted around 850 million people out of poverty. Most of them after 1978. India, until very recently, held the unenviable title of housing the largest population of ‘absolutely’ poor people in the world. Where did we go wrong?

The first lesson is in Human Development. According to the latest rankings released by UNDP, India ranks 131 out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI) rankings. China, on the other hand, stands at 85.

In the QS World University Rankings, China’s Tsinghua University ranks 15, whereas India’s best bet, the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B), comes at 172. With the New Education Policy, India hopes to bridge this gap.

India can take a leaf out of China’s book to boost the reforms and make the education system more competitive and dynamic. With the kind of demography India has, this has to be done on a priority basis.

Secondly, the might of China comes from its industries. Post-independence, China decided to go for labour-intensive industries. They decided to use the large, not so literate population to give a fillip to manufacturing.

Despite the failures like the Cultural Revolution and The Great Leap Forward, China today stands at a dominating position through its products. It is a hub of global manufacturing. India, on the other hand, decided to go for the capital-intensive industries. It did not use the concept of economies of scale.

While China under Deng Xiaoping was establishing Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the 1980s to boost manufacturing and supply chains, India was battling with political instability and a ballooning fiscal deficit. India’s reluctance to Labour-led industrialisation has harmed it beyond just a dent.

Even after all this time, India should not have opted to drop out of RCEP. The deal could have helped India achieve its domestic industrial revolution in the long run. But we have never really given up our mindset of being the largest market.

India needs to learn from China how it can use its scale to become one of the world’s most efficient manufacturers and not just consumers. Yes, it is possible. The trust that India has retained using its soft diplomacy can very well be used to its advantage. And with the pandemic hammering every economy forcefully, India still has a credible chance to catch the bus.

Political will, coupled with easy money, can be a good start. In an article in the India Today magazine, Professor Kishore Mahbubani wrote, “No country has as great a gap between its potential and performance as India does.” I don’t think many people will dispute it.

To perform at its best, India needs to fill the fault lines in the infrastructure sector investment. China has, over the decades, invested rigorously in infrastructure. Recent ‘One Belt, One Road’ is a case in point.

Infrastructure not only makes it easier to live, but it also generates employment to the extent that no other sector can guarantee. The latest National Infrastructure Pipeline gives hope but being a snail will not help. Relentlessness should be the mantra.

Sun Tzu wrote, “To know your Enemy, you must become your enemy.” This Chinese doctrine can very well be used by India to defeat China. Of course, there are many flaws too in our neighbour: human rights violation, no freedom of the Press etc. I have no intention of denying that.

But at this hour, we need to gird up the loins and learn from where ever we can. We are struggling. Just closing our eyes will only help the cat eat us more easily. As our Prime Minister Narendra Modi fondly says that Indians know how to find a silver lining, it is precisely what we need to do now. The Elephant needs to learn something from the Dragon.

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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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