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In The Name Of Environmentalism, Lakhs Have Been Displaced By Authorities

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Modern, ultra-modern projects of development have been projected as the new form of temples in India. Corporates, Indian state machinery and foreign capitalists are the new priests of these temples which are setting the norms for the vast masses who will take what and when.

A report in Hindustan Times shows that more than nine times of Delhi NCR area is under the control of the Indian state. The maximum contributor in this field of encroachment is Railways, following that path coal and electricity ministry are others.

In this half-sovereign and self-proclaimed democratic development scenario, people have been pushed aside to the corner to watch the Dandiya playing circus of development with the help of their bones and skins. Community land, forest reserves, biosphere reserves, ultra- development projects are the way to get out the native people from their resources and give their jal, jungal and jameen to the corporates.

The development of modern land banks, new CRPF camps, extrajudicial killing and anti-labour laws proliferate parallelly to fulfil the unending appetite of corporates.

Representative Image. Source: Piqsels

The Khori Gaon Movement took a new turn in the afternoon of 30 June when protestors were lathicharged by the Haryana Police to follow the words of the Supreme Courts decision to vacate the place. Women protestors were beaten up by male police in the presence of supreme authorities under the guidance of our honourable court.

An activist, who belongs to the Sikh community, was targeted and brutalised by the Brahmanical police because of his religious identity. They targeted his pagadi and daarhi. Another man, who was standing on the corner of the road was dragged by the police and thrashed. He also belonged to the Sikh community.

Khori Gaon is currently facing the adversity of the Brahmanical Hindutva Fascist State. The majority of the people belong to Dalit, Adivasi and Muslim communities who bought their lands and built homes.

Broken walls, torn clothes, swelled eyes, distorted windows and heavy hearts are the results to maintain democracy with the help of the most altruistic manner by the state. The best humanistic approach of the state towards migrant workers is the rearrest demonic act of rulers.

The basti has been demolished more than twice before this and this time they have the order of apex court, “defender of human rights”. When a plea was filled in front of Haryana Punjab High Court by the residents of Khori Gaon, the court replied that the right to life has to be secured.

Against this decision of the High Court, the Haryana government moved to the Supreme Court where the court ordered to vacate the colony within 6 weeks and removed the stay on demolition. Here it is prominent to note down that the Supreme Court gives excessive importance to the eco-sensitive zone at Aravalli hills, instead of people who are living inside it.

According to the Supreme Court, the zone is heavily impacted by human migration and the destruction of natural vegetation is the direct outcome of this kind of human settlement. More than one lakh people’s lives are at stake but the never-ending project of sustainable development cannot be revisited.

When I am criticising the sustainable development circus, at that very time my soul purpose is to expose the fairy play of people-centric development (claimed by the state every time). When people say “has the state done nothing for us?” my answer is very simple and straight, did the colonial British rule do nothing to us? Of course, they did, but who was that development for and how sustainable was it? Is it not a pressing concern for us?

After 1947, we constructed more than 3,300 big dams, but the actual area under drought and flood increased, instead of decreasing. It’s a way of letting governments lay their hands on huge sums of money; a way of centralising resources. They are snatching the resources from the poor and giving them to rich corporates.

Sardar Sarovar Dam
Sardar Sarovar Dam. Source: Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

In her 2003 interview with The Damned, Arundhati Roy described the Sardar Sarovar Project of Gujarat, which was a big dam project inside the second-largest area, and how Gujarat was still drought-prone and the state still defended the Narmada Valley project. Massive ecological loss of mangrove forests was seen after the increase of salinity of sea coast water.

It was the same time when Gujarat was branding itself as the development capital of India. As an estimate, more than 50 million people have been forced to vacate their native place because of big dam projects and development projects and many of them evacuated from ecologically vulnerable zones since 1947. And the worst part is that no government data can prove that India’s vast food supply is fulfilled by the big dams.

And the biggest flag bearer of eco-sensitivity was silent on the 50 million evacuations. Has justice been delivered?

Delhi Ridge And Development

The court ordered that all encroachments in the notified ridge area be removed, including the three settlements housing around 30,000 people. The deadline for the removal was 31 October, 1996, which was extended till 31 March, 1997, and again.

On 17 June, 1995, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had issued a notification increasing the allocation for commercial development in a certain south Delhi area from 8 ha to 65 ha. The main ingredient of this development plan was a proposed complex of 11 hotels and a wide road to be built over a green tract near Vasant Kunj — a geographic extension of the south-central ridge. The EIA (Environment Impact Assessment) has not been finalised by the authorities.

Anita Soni, a social worker functioning in the region said: “The axe fell on the innocent poor settlers, leaving out massive ecologically harmful encroachments by the rich.” She points out that in the southern ridge, sprawling farmhouses and luxury weekend resorts of the rich and the famous have proliferated over the last 20 years.

A recent amendment to the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), a 100-year-old law, by the Manohar Lal Khattar government threatens to open up 33% of the forest for commercial activity. In Ankhir village, land mafias have encroached upon an entire hill to build an illegal road. On both sides of the road, farmhouses have sprung up.

This commercial activity is going on unchecked despite the area falling under Sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act. Quarrying and real estate development are banned in 17 villages of Faridabad under this act but the administration has turned a blind eye.

Environmentalist Chetan Agarwal alleges that the Haryana government in an affidavit had said that there were no Aravallis in Faridabad at all. They brought the amendment to the PLPA to allow illegal construction in the Aravallis with retrospective effect.

Economic Sensitive Zone And “Development”

Dibru Saikhowa National Park
Dibru Saikhowa National Park. Source: Wikimedia Commons

On the border area of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh, Dibru Sikhowa National Park is located in Assam. The Park is bounded by Brahmaputra and Lohit rivers which are extended up to a 12 km area. It mainly consists of moist mixed semi-evergreen forests, moist mixed deciduous forests and grasslands.

Assam State government recently proposed an amendment in the eco-sensitive zone of Dibru Sikhova, which actually shrinks the area of the National Park. According to the rule of the eco-sensitive zone, there could be no development work done around the 10 km buffer zone of National Park.

In a recent amendment of Assam state, which is responsible to delineate the boundary of Park, they shrunk the buffer zone to zero kilometres for an Oil India Limited Project. The project is near the North East Biodiversity Hotspot which has many endemic species and endangered species of flora and fauna.

In defence of the project, the Assam government said that the project was in working mode before 2010 in Tinsukiya before the declaration of the eco-sensitive zone. Four months after the whittled down eco-sensitive zone, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change gave clarence to this project expansion, which projected a deep mark on the sensitivity of the state towards the environment.

The gravest form of destruction is habitat loss for the flora and fauna of different climatic zone and it is inevitable in neoliberal development. Displacement is not a new phenomenon in the history of humankind and it has been changing its course from time to time.

The Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot is suffering from the massive exploitation of local vegetation, especially medicinal plants. Many pharmaceutical companies are investing crores of rupees to harass these medicinal plants through local Bahubalis. Apart from this, black marketing of resources is very common in these areas with the help of local administration.

The actual inhabitants are at the margins and the contractors are consuming these resource-rich spaces. One thing which is common for the whole era, more powerful displaces lesser from it.

Historically, with time, the state has also changed its shape and idea with a common intention to exploit the vast masses. We witnessed the history of Brahmanical State expansion in ancient times on the throats of Adivasi people and the jungle. They not only occupied their jungles and converted them into plain land, but they also turned Adivasi people into slaves, forced them to do Begari.

Increasing demand for cheap labour and free land are the basic demands from the modern resource seeking corporate sectors.

Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons
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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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