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

COVID Was ‘India’s Internal Matter’, Yet Mainstream Media Failed To Report Well

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

It’s no secret that over the last couple of weeks, if not months, that Indian media was entirely off the path of being a faithful journalistic watchdog. A significant section of Indian media was prioritizing the elections of 2021, spinning a positive image and acting as PR agents of the regime over the dead bodies of Indians who were dying outside the hospitals, gasping for oxygen, hunting for primary health facilities, and medicines.

The international media, along with journalists like Rana Ayyub and local journalists, were trying to bring the actual stories from the grounds of India.

Those in power decided to conduct election rallies instead of focussing on the growing menace of Coronavirus.

In any functioning and genuine democracy, media is entitled as one of the pillars of democracy, which works as a gatekeeper, watchdog, and the voice of the people. It was so disheartening and disturbing to see the way they had been acting during this second wave of nationwide covid carnage.

Their real job was to hold the people in power accountable for their mismanagement, misplaced priorities, and bringing an actual image of the crisis in front of the people, along with making a network of connections and contacts to give away on a daily if not an hourly basis of verified covid resources leads using their vast network and connections.

The Failures Of Indian Media And India

It is essential to understand that democracy is a very fragile concept. If any one of its pillars fails to function as it should be, then the fall of democracy is inevitable and thus, in my opinion, it paves the way for fascism and dictatorship. Therefore, it is not surprising why we continuously see traits of fascism and authoritarianism. And if we go by the facts, then it is obvious where we are. As per the World Democracy Index 2021, we fell to the 53rd position and got labelled as ‘flawed democracy’.

As per the Reporters Without Borders ranking of 2020, we are at 142nd place, which is an all-time low for us. As per the USA-based Freedom house’s index of 2021, we downgraded from ‘free democracy’ to ‘partly free democracy‘. We even topped the list of the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world in 2020. By a Sweden-based agency, we’ve been labelled as an electoral autocracy.

Now one may say these facts are ‘international conspiracy’, or this is ‘India’s internal matter’, but ultimately the loss is ours if we let our nationalist or patriotic sentiments come in between these alarming signs of fascism. It is still not too late to re-discover our way back to the lightness of democracy from this darkness of totalitarianism.

Rana Ayyub (pictured above), has been one of the people working with International media to highlight India’s condition.

It is shocking how morally lost Indian media has become when thousands of people were dying and desperately looking for covid resources, the media covered massive election rallies, exit polls, and whatnot. Is it morally right to do so amidst this deadly crisis when crematoriums are running out of wood to function and when graveyards are running out of land to bury the dead? This is the question as rational citizens we need to ask the Indian media right now and force them to get back on the right track of democracy.

Unwarranted Criticism From Liberal Journalists?

Another critical factor is when international media was continuously bringing the news from urban and rural areas with the help of journalists like Rana Ayyub and local journalists. In some way, the ‘liberal journalists’ got jealous and wrongly blamed Ms Ayyub for taking all the credit. They felt as if only they were entitled to represent India at a global media level and not someone from a minority community.

Manisha Pande, an Executive Editor at Newslaundry, tweeted about Rana Ayyub and her work with international media.

Thus, this sparked controversy over Twitter, and international media was labelled as “lazy media” and Rana Ayyub as a “go-to person” for the international media. Now, this isn’t some Rana Ayyub appreciation post, but her work speaks for herself, and that’s why she is where she is right now.

The BJP’s PR Damage Control

But the sad aspect is during this controversy is, who gets the benefit out of it? The people in power get more time to do PR damage control stunts with the help of government-allied media outlets.

One fine example of those stunts is the recent Tejasvi Surya’s communal and discriminatory act in Bangalore. He called out the names of 16 people (all from the Muslim community) out of above 120 working staff at BBMP South Zone War Room. The government-allied media was quick to break the news as breaking news without even verifying the information. Ultimately, later the police clarified there was no involvement by the Muslim staff whose names were mentioned by Tejasvi Surya.

Also, even when the Indian media dared to question or hold the people in power accountable, they did so while pretending to not know who to blame for this catastrophe or who is responsible and how we ended up here. When international media covered it, they were clear in their approach to hold the responsible people accountable. Therefore this is the significant difference between Indian media and International media.

To conclude, media need to do their work reasonably, honestly, and rightly. Otherwise, the media itself has to be blamed along with the people in power for this carnage.

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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.

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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.

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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