This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Lochan Sharma. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

‘Old Wine in New Bottle’: Is Our ‘New Normal’ Really That New?

More from Lochan Sharma

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

The prognosis of the post-COVID 19 worlds has widely been discussed among scholars. The opinion-makers have disseminated speculations. Meanwhile, lives that halted and economic shutdown during the lockdown has seen gradual stances of unlocks in a series of events, unlike the lockdown process. With the rail of migrant workers marching on the highways, railway lines, platforms, all across and people aiming to return home safe, have reached respective villages, and now reverse migration is in progress.

The migrant worker, the pillar of the economy, is at work again. They have been struggling to keep themselves alive and earn the livelihoods that eventually forced them to migrate to the same city from where they have walked disgraceful.

Coronavirus lockdown hits India migrant workers' pay, food supply — Quartz  India
Representative image only.

During the lockdown, the environment has revitalized itself. On the other hand, humans have challenges dealing with the infection, particularly the frontline worker of the pandemic crusader. Besides, the pandemic has a positive influence on a section of the societies concerning behaviour and attitude towards the environment. The other section was sitting back and wishing to get a completely new and transformed world after the lockdown or at least post-COVID 19.

We all were ambitious to receive a world full of energy being invested into preserving nature, conserving the newly emerging wildlife, and consistently maintaining the ‘good’ habits’ acquired over a short span. Eventually, reality seems very far from the imagined new world. Let me take you through a few instances where we decide what we have the new normal or the same old.

First instance, a woman living in a patriarchal society is being forced to feel shy and introverted to go out in public. The prevailing insecurities compel them to feel uncomfortable walking in a public space. Once the mandate of the mask was implemented, the women have to cover her face, thereby her physical identity. Given the circumstances, women ‘received’ liberty in some way.

Perhaps, this sense of liberty, or freedom to move in a public space, has a hidden cultural connotation. But is this good? In a way suitable for a section of working women, they at least feel the freedom to go out, doing what they want, but does it do any good to their social life? Essentially that does constitute the new version of the old normal. For ages, this has been prevalent in the form of purdah or niqab system in human society and covering face at high temperatures in states like Rajasthan and Delhi. Now a veil or mask to prevent the virus.

masks: Survey says 90% Indians aware, but only 44% wearing a mask;  discomfort key reason for non-compliance - The Economic Times
Representative image only.

Let us discuss the second situation, where the phobia concerning the spread of infection serves well the act of discrimination. Even after months of the pandemic, people are in the stage of not being fully aware of what the virus is, and how one must keep oneself safe. Up till when the virus reaches one’s vicinity, they follow a casual attitude, similar to what we saw globally when the virus first landed up in the news in early January 2020. The recklessness, lack of stringent measures is still the policy of the public.

You may still find people in public space without wearing a mask, or putting a mask over their chin (probably waiting for the virus to come and say Hi to them so that they put it over), or improper hygienic practices. But when a person, or their family, or anyone nearby gets it, they treat them with seclusion, indifference, and hatred. This doesn’t help, but in fact, spreads phobia and hate, as we witnessed in March or April with people returning from abroad. This is a suitable example of an old book in a new cover.

The third situation brings the political sentiments of the majoritarian rule favouring the religious beliefs and practices of the majority in Indian society over the minorities. The incidence of Tablighi Jamaat, which needs no mention, was recently declared vicious propaganda and an act of scapegoat in a verdict of the Bombay High court.

Over the phase of lockdown, many similar instances have happened, be it the Ayodhya Ram Mandir foundation pooja, Jaganath Puri Rath Yatra, Ganesh Chaturthi, or Tirupati temple. Nobody felt worrisome of these acts concerning the pandemic. The same act of political negotiations and political favouritism and the same media promoting the positives of all of it. Still, wondering if it is the same old or not?

The fourth instance is about those who believe in the theory of climate change and are concerned about the environment. Along with those who do not, altogether turned to preserve the environment and save nature for all good times that it exhibited in the lockdown phase. But does anyone care to stick to their intentions now? The traffic is the same; the use of air conditioners (ACs), the use of plastic, garbage mismanagement are the same. What is new about it? Do we have any measure to act better? We did not improve even on the lines handling it better. This is no new; we just realized the fact and returned to the same old habits.

Coronavirus and Climate Change: the Effects of COVID-19 on the Environment  ‹ Pepperdine Graphic
A cartoon representing Coronavirus and climate change. Representative image only.

The fifth and final conditionality is the persisting caste system in our society. Recently I was observing my LinkedIn profile. Some entrepreneurs are so actively posting about their efficient HR roles in accepting the conditions of the applicants, and giving them a platform or say a helping hand to promote their role in somebody’s socio-economic betterment. Such exaggeration was also observed at the start of lockdown, when people started donating money, supporting their home-maids, etc in getting train tickets, sufficient food for their families, a place to live, etc.

But over time, we realized that we, as part of Indian society, cannot merely survive without their aid, and all of the moral upliftment was momentary. They cannot sustain their social media posts by performing household chores evermore. They need them back, they need assistance, and need a person who could do this for them, clean their filth, so they get extra time to rest, work out, and post. This is nothing new again.

This has been the evident ideology of hierarchal Indian society. If we were at new normal, first and foremost is to realize ‘our house our responsibility,’ and if not, providing them with at least minimum daily wages for their work.  Or else, this exemplifies the worst scenarios in the era of humanity, being nastier than the ‘same old’ we talked about throughout.

No matter what conditions confront us, the fundamental nature of humans is difficult to change. If in the current situation, the social systems and their functionaries are not changing, then what are we waiting for? Do we need the pandemic more disastrous and perilous calamity for the changes to constitute a ‘new normal?

You must be to comment.

More from Lochan Sharma

Similar Posts

By Denzel Joyson

By shakeel ahmad

By Latest Laws

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below