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A Letter From A Breathless Indian To The Government

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

TW: COVID Death

Dear Indian Media and People in Power alike,

You were never there when we desperately needed you, to tell the truth, and represent the real Indian people and their issues. So now don’t show us our reality, we would prefer to watch our self-glorification when our dear ones are struggling for oxygen, life-saving drugs, and ICU beds.

Corona Virus Outbreak In India
A view of a crematorium ground where mass cremation of victims who died due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is seen at a crematorium in New Delhi on April 22, 2021. India reported over 3.14 lakh new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the highest-ever daily count recorded anywhere. 2,104 have succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours, as per the Union health ministry. (Photo by Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Please don’t say that our health system has collapsed, India is among the countries having the lowest public healthcare budget in the world. The public healthcare system in the country merely getting 1.26% of the total GDP and we are aspiring to increase to 2.5% of total GDP. We took 9 months to revise our treatment plan for corona on the contrary other countries kept updating it.

Even in the Healthcare Access and Quality Index released by the medical journal Lancet in 2018, India ranked 145th out of the 195 countries in terms of quality and accessibility to healthcare so try to recall that our health care system has collapsed a long time ago. Because for the last 50 countries in the index, there is no health system at all.

Our chronology in Covid 19 management is mind-blowing. First, we didn’t want to accept Covid 19 because we had to organize Namaste Trump for our best friend POTUS. When after 2 months, we accepted the Existence of Covid 19, we locked ourselves so bad that we couldn’t see the plight of migrants. Thousands of people died nothing but of state’s apathy, But we preferred utensil banging, lighting earthen pots.

Last April, when India banned hydroxychloroquine HCQ, the best friend Trump called our PM asking for supply and threatened retaliation. India lifted the ban, citing the “humanitarian” aspects. India has exported 66.2698 Million doses of vaccine to 94 nations in the world, which is 36% of its total supply, and we passed months in self-glorifying as Vaccine Guru. It showed our humanitarian aspect once again.

Now, when India is facing an acute vaccine shortage, the US has put an export ban on vaccine materials citing America First. So, I guess we are not friends anymore. But leave alone any relation it is morally imperative for the US to help India.

Well, How can we judge the US when our priorities are not clear? The Centre’s project of constructing a new common Central Secretariat for its Ministries famously known as Central Vista was kick-started amid the chaos. When our health system is so hugely underfunded, is it really necessary to demolish our beautiful buildings and erect new towers?

We preponed the Kumbha celebration due to astrological reasons, 10 million footfall was expected though it reduced to 6 million, the event created super spreaders, and this time Corona moved into villages and cities alike. We wanted to use our good signs hidden in stars but couldn’t realize the fault in our stars.

Image Credit:PenPencilDraw

We lambasted the Farmer’s protest, never to forget vilification of a particular sect among Muslims for the genesis of the Covid 19 in India. The Schools/Universities were closed because we were fearing community spread but Political rallies were always there to protect our democracy. When the hospitals around the country have been raising SOS alarms for the acute shortage of necessary supplies, Sarkar was busy campaigning for the West Bengal elections. Too much democracy?

Right now our foremost priority is to control the rampant spread of corona in our cities and villages alike. We need to address the chaos in our government and public hospitals. We need to have more trees in our localities and live in sync with the environment. Researches are pointing out that increasing air pollution is fueling mortality in covid.

Governments must strengthen our public healthcare system for the most advanced treatment and easier accessibility. The chaos in the hospitals needs to be addressed; Private hospitals are robbing off people in the name of Covid. We need to cap the Covid treatment expense and set people accountable. Leave alone it for poor people even majority of the middle class can’t afford private healthcare facilities without any insurance.

If our authorities still do not have a plan, consider my suggestions.

  1. Vaccination should be faster and ensure Universal coverage
  2. Prepare a Database of senior citizens with their comorbidities and that is easier now as most of the 45 above people are already registered for vaccine through the Arogya Setu app
  3. Distribute a required amount of nutrients and ration to entitled people
  4. Ensure safe drinking water and water for sanitation to every place
  5. Curtail movement till significant success in vaccination is achieved
  6. Suspend all the festivals/functions till universal coverage

With Best wishes,

A Breathless Indian

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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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