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India’s COVID Dystopia: Are We As Marooned And Isolated As We Think?

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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.

In 2018, the Marvel universe set the stage high with the release of Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos, the villain, snapped his finger and obliterated 50% of the population across the universe. In 2020, the world genuflected in front of a mutant virus, claimed to have originated originate in Wuhan, China. This virus took a lot of lives and left destruction in its wake. Some even hysterically claimed that this virus was an onset of the snap by Thanos.

India was the first in line to export medicines and medical equipment to other countries and was nicknamed ‘the pharmaceutical country of the world’. India was adhering to the ethos of our foreign policy, i.e. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakum’ (The world is one family). According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) website, India exported the made-in-India COVID vaccines to more than 90 countries, with a total supply crossing 500 lakhs. Only when things seemed to settle down and functions were getting normal, India was hit by the second wave of the virus like a tsunami.

Representational Image.

Over the last month, India witnessed a spike in the infection rate, shortage of oxygen cylinders, vaccines, hospital beds, and so on. India transformed from an exporter to an importer in the global arena. Over the last few days, various countries stepped forward to India’s aid. The flight from France landed in India on May 2nd, and we received medical equipment and various essential supplies from France- which included 28 tonnes of medical equipment and 8 oxygen generators.

This is part of the ‘solidarity mission’ to help India fight against the devastating second wave. The French ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, said that these plants shall establish eight hospitals in India as ‘oxygen autonomous’ for ten years. The French ministry made a statement saying that it was carrying out an “exceptional solidarity mission” to assist India and its people. 

India was given 120 ventilators from Germany as aid which landed on May 1st. According to sources, Germany will further send a mobile oxygen production and filling plant next week. Thirteen German technical personnel shall assist with installation and help train the staff in the use of equipment. Germany is also sending a contingent of Remdesivir and other medicines. The procurement of medical equipment is also being made from private contractors in Germany.

India received a consignment of 100 oxygen concentrators from Uzbekistan, which was accompanied by medical supplies. The Indian diaspora in Uzbekistan contributed 51 oxygen concentrators. MEA spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava commented that this act has further deepened the strategic ties bilaterally.

The third shipment, carrying over a thousand oxygen cylinders, regulators, and other medical equipment arrived on May 2nd from the USA. India also received 1,50,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia. The Russian ambassador to India, Nikolay Kudashev, said that the efficiency of this vaccine is the highest in the world and will help India during these tense times.

India received 9000 vials of Remdesivir medication from Belgium. The Government of India decided to exempt basic custom duty on import of COVID-19 vaccines, along with health cess on the import of medical grade oxygen and other equipment for a period of three months. The global pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer decided to send vaccines worth USD 70 million from across its centers located in the USA, Europe, and Asia, and have identified this as part of India’s COVID-19 treatment protocol. Many other countries in the world- including Australia, Romania, Ireland, Portugal, Singapore, Luxembourg, Sweden, Mauritius, Kuwait, and New Zealand- have also offered assistance to India in these trying times, and a few of them have already delivered supplies, medicines, and aid to India. 

Across the spectrum, people are blaming the failure of the government’s anticipation and planning for the sudden spike in cases and the second wave turning into a tsunami. Videos were circulated, where people were accusing the central government of carrying out election rallies in states and organizing the Kumbh Mela. People gathered in thousands to take a dip in the holy water. According to a report, at least 1700 who were present at the Kumbh Mela tested positive, and another report from Kolkata said that every second person is testing positive.

The infection rate in India has crossed 30% with the highest record on April 30th, crossing 4 lakh cases and more than 30,000 deaths. Different people have given this wave an ideological tilt based on their assumptions and education, further spreading paranoia. Many people blamed the government for spending crores in building the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue in Gujarat, when the resources could have been utilized to brush the infrastructure and improve the conditions of living in the country.

The construction of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project also seemed hurried as it was not an immediate requirement, and that money could have been alternatively and judiciously utilized. The PM Cares fund was also not spared from the spotlight. The government did make a mistake by failing to anticipate the second wave, and did not make preparations accordingly for this biological pogrom, which could have been controlled if we were better prepared.

Medical staff in PPE coveralls attend to patients housed in the Shehnai Banquet Hall Covid-19 care centre attached to LNJP Hospital on April 15, 2021 in New Delhi, India.
Healthcare workers are working tirelessly all throughout the day to save lives. Image Credit: Getty Images.

Now, in order to bridge this rift, the government is working tirelessly to save lives, and healthcare workers are fighting day and night to protect lives.Cremation grounds are flooded with funeral processions, and many are even waiting for their turn. The situation has worsened faster than anyone could even blink, let alone ask for help in time.

The Uttar Pradesh administration has decided to punish people spreading false news about oxygen and bed shortages as the state government claimed that it is self-sufficient, and is facing no shortages. In such harsh times, when India is sick and marooned, everyone should come together and help rather than pointing fingers at the people responsible.

It is time we stand in solidarity and support our sick brethren as much as possible while following precautions, so that we do not become an additional burden on the doctors, hospitals, and our families. With patience, perseverance, a little ambivalence, added with the support from various countries, we can all phase out from this gloomy reality and walk into a bright and sunny day once again. As Loki said to his brother before dying at the hands of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, “The sun will shine on us again.”

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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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