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Opinion: Govts Must Empower Local Bodies To Impose A Lockdown For The Second Wave

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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.

On April 15, 2021, India recorded the highest ever single-day spike with 200,739 Covid cases. If this continues, then in a week’s time, the single-day spike will reach 500,000 as the rise is very sharp. At present, the rise in cases has put pressure on the available healthcare facilities in many states. Maharashtra imposed a lockdown in the name of Janata Curfew starting April 14, 2021.

A point to be noted is that the harsh lockdown during 2020 was aimed at capacity building. That’s why, many (including me) are not in favour of a second lockdown. But then Maharashtra can’t be blamed for the present lockdown because the number of Covid-19 cases are uncontrollable there. I won’t be surprised if the Central government imposes another harsh lockdown in the first week of May if the spike is beyond control.

There are many reasons to explain the more dangerous and infectious nature of the second wave. Experts have stated the mutation of the virus, corona fatigue and many other reasons for the second wave. But they all unanimously agree that the carelessness and fearlessness among people regarding Covid are the main reasons for this steep rise. Despite multiple warnings, people indulged in thronging everywhere and were not following Covid-appropriate behaviour. To add to this, the opening of schools, election campaigns, festivals, etc. augmented the danger.

A security personnel checks the body temperature of a woman as she enters a market among a crowd of people as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Chennai (Credit: Getty Images). 

The point is simple: if people stick to Covid-appropriate behaviour, then no matter how mutated the virus, it can’t harm the public. Governments (both Centre and State) have alerted the public regarding this at many instances. Fines were put in place as well, yet, people did not follow the Covid protocol. The reason is simple. Human beings, by default, are anarchic. We always need a strict imposition of the law to remain disciplined. Counselling or advising rarely works. Furthermore, the Covid fatigue also added to the carelessness.

The lockdown is considered the best way to discipline people. I think as a last resort, the state governments, or even the Central government last year, had to impose a total lockdown. The public can be disciplined that way, but there the lockdown is bound to have economic and livelihood consequences.

I’ve discussed these factors in my previous article on this platform. I suggested that the enforcement of the Covid protocol must include civilians as we can’t depute policemen in every nook and corner to ensure adherence of Covid-appropriate behaviour among the public, followed by imposition of a penalty in case of violation. Many of my friends raised questions on how this power can be decentralised in the form of ground-level representatives. According to them, the Indian governance system holds authority that can’t be exercised by anyone else.

I differ here and present an example below.

Odisha was one of the first states to successfully manage the first wave of Covid-19. How? The Navin Patnaik government empowered the sarpanches in the state with district collector’s power. The sarpanches were also assigned the responsibility of ensuring the adherence of Covid-appropriate behaviour and quarantining of people coming from other state. They also managed the quarantine centres in the Panchayat, and if required, had the power to impose a lockdown/shutdown in a particular ward, village or even the whole Panchayat. This worked well in their favour. The sarpanch, along with other ward members, in fact, worked very hard to control the corona spike.

During the first wave of Covid, the Navin Patnaik government empowered the sarpanches in the state with district collector’s power.

The PRI (Panchayati Raj Institution) is the basic outlet for deliverance of governance. Mahatma Gandhi was always of the opinion that villages should be the units of polity. The main intention of the implementation of PRIs was to deliver governance directly to the public. It’s a fact that due to vested interest of political leaders, till date, the PRIs are not empowered to govern, as has been mandated in the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act 1992 of Panchayt Raj Act.

This period of the pandemic, which is an extraordinary situation, has taught us many things. The result of the Odisha government’s experiment in giving all sarpanches the power of a district collector to fight Covid-19 is visible. Thus, I think all the sarpanches in India must be given the same power again, along with the responsibility of ensuring Covid-appropriate behaviour by the public. They can impose penalties and even shutdowns/lockdowns. Not only the PRI, but even urban local bodies should be included in this management, where councillors can take charge of their wards. Apart from this, there can be voluntary organisations/NGOs who can work under a particular police station in urban areas to control the public.

It is when things go beyond control that the harshest steps (like a complete lockdown) are imposed, irrespective of their financial and livelihood consequences. But is there anything wrong in using our existing institutions to discipline the public? I think governments should deliberate on this aspect.

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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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