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Report Card: Does This Year’s Budget Give Due Attention To Environmental Issues?

This piece of writing focuses on the allocation of budget to tackle environmental issues and their impact on the existing situation. It highlights the reasons that should have been the driving factor for the allocation and inspect whether the aim has been reached or does the government still lack in its endeavours to provide for a safer and healthier environment to its citizens.

Every living being craves to live happily — to fulfil their desires, eat delicious meals, go on a journey of sightseeing and a grand house. But wait, don’t you think these desires are peaceful only when we can breathe? Living in a dreary place where every inanimate element is infuriated and seems to swallow us along with every other animate being is not, and can never be, a precursor to our joyful and spectacular desires. Needless to say, the government must make sure that we the people of India can fulfil our basic needs from “roti, kapda, makaan” to oxygen to breathe.

Every year, in fact, every month and week, we see the devastating effects of climate change on all life forms. Pollution in Delhi and other cities is choking innocent kids; Bangalore has been ranked as the city with the world’s worst vehicular traffic in the past year. Has anyone calculated the answer to these increasing numbers? And where is it leading us?

It’s hard to believe that the situation is getting worse, but it’s even harder to write that very few people are taking steps to undo the wrong. Amidst all this chaos, I would like to shed some light on the actions promised by our government to improve the environmental havoc in the Budget 2021-22.

Our Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitaraman, in her Budget speech, addressed the concern of rising pollution and what the Ministry has planned to curb it. She talked about allocations covering matters including air pollution from vehicles and construction, biodiversity conversation in deep seas, promoting green energy, and urban issues such as sewage and waste management.

The budget has critically looked into matters related to the healthcare sector, the reason for which is clear. Covid-19  has brought the whole world to the brink of death. Fear whirled around every country and superpowers made it obvious to the government that the health of citizens comes first. This is an appreciable step, but that’s just one side of the story. Though health has been given a lot of importance, there has been a reduction in the sum allocated to the environment ministry — from Rs 3,100 crores last year to Rs 2,869.93 crores this year.

This implies that there might be a halt in environment-related activities. This will tend to indirectly affect the healthcare sector as a lack of a healthy environment leads to weak immunity and lungs, making our bodies fragile and more prone to diseases. A sum of Rs 2,217 crores has been kept aside for improving air quality in 42 urban centres with a population of over one million by implementing the voluntary vehicle scrap policy.

However, the loophole here is that the how and when of the implementation of these policies are still unknown. Vikrant Tongad, an environmentalist and founder of NGO SAFE (Social Action for Forest and Environment), said that last year, the government announced Rs 4,400 crores for ensuring clean air, but how this fund has been utilised has still not been revealed on any public platforms. Moreover, the reduction in this allocation shows that the government is not serious about climate change, says Tongad.

car pollution
One of the few positives in Budget 2021-22 include voluntary vehicle scrapping policy.

The Budget allocated Rs 470 crore under ‘Control of Pollution’, which takes into account allocation to the NCAP, and pollution control boards and committees.  There are mere 122 cities under the NCAP and the Greenpeace India’s Annual Airpocalypse Report 2020 surveyed that 231 out of 287 cities have PM10 levels exceeding 60 µg/m3 limits, thus deducing that the allocation is not enough and portrays the lack of optimum funding.

Jai Dhar Gupta, CEO and Founder of Nirvana Being, expressed his dissatisfaction:

“I have to mention that I am disappointed by the reduced allocation for Clean Air. Air pollution is a far greater public health emergency than Covid. While Covid claimed 1.5 lakh lives in 2020, air pollution is responsible for about 18 lakh deaths across India. However, I do want to highlight other things in the Budget that will impact the environment positively, such as the voluntary vehicle scrapping policy and allocation for waste management to reduce plastic waste.”

The vehicle scrap policy may be beneficial with the right plan of action. With some traces of greys in it, the Budget has been a shock for many and a blessing for a few. The allocation of the National Hydrogen Energy Mission to be launched in 2021-22 has come as a big hope for us, but in a country where coal industrialists still believe that “coal is our soul”, bigger stumbling blocks lie ahead and it would be interesting to see how the government overcomes them by fulfilling the expectations of the environmentalists as well as Mother Nature.

Here is a link to check out a detailed list of government policies related to the environment.

Keeping in mind the consequences of the current Budget, its various aspects would be both positive and negative effects on us. We should keenly look into its prospects and be individually responsible for playing our parts in subscribing to its outcomes. With this, I am leaving it to the readers to interpret the aforementioned opinions as to how successful these policies are and how they can be more efficient.

Featured image credit: Getty Images
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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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