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As Delhiites Flock To Hill Stations, State Govts. Need To Step Up Their Game

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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.

At the time of writing this piece, Delhi has a positivity rate of approximately 0.1%. Its neighbouring states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab have recorded a similar, low rate. It looks like we are in the pink for now, although the clouds of an inevitable third wave continue to lurk, as pointed out by numerous experts.

The second wave was fatal, clocking a rate of 20-30% in the aforementioned states. This was attributed to laxity by citizens, owing to the festive season (Holi), Kumbh Mela, election rallies, along with a continued streak of Covid-19 inappropriate behaviour.

Rise In Black Marketeering

The second wave made the infection extremely personal. We now know many people in our social circles who were affected by it. While we saw efforts by many community groups and NGOs, who came together to collect resources for the needy, via WhatsApp groups, chatbots, websites etc., there were many others who took unethical, economic advantage of the situation.

For instance, important drugs were immediately black-marketed and made available at sky-rocketed prices. Ambulances charged a bomb for just a few kilometres. Oxygen vendors too were charging exorbitant prices and often cancelling orders for better deals. It was pandemonium for a period of two weeks in many Indian states.

The second wave of the Covid-19 was brutal because it affected a lot of our loved ones and acquaintances, unlike the previous wave. Representational Image.

Decline Of Second Wave

Soon after, when the second wave declined around mid-May, Delhi and many other neighbouring states began easing restrictions. While the capital saw good air quality during most of its lockdown weeks, traffic on roads returned to the usual as we entered the month of June.

People were on the roads, but this time, they seemed to be taking the virus more seriously. Faces were properly covered with masks that did not rest on their chins. Many other conscious citizens subscribed to double masking as prescribed by the government. It was clear that the capital’s wounds were gradually healing up.

It was encouraging to see that the wave was declining as rapidly as it took off, throughout the months of March to June. The problem started when Delhi’s neighbouring states relaxed entry such that people didn’t need a negative Covid-19 RTPCR test.

Tourists Flock To Hill Stations

The more popular state of Himachal Pradesh (HP) took a massive economic hit due to the pandemic, considering that a large proportion of its revenue comes from tourism. It saw literally thousands of Delhiites thronging to it the very next weekend.

Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, home to popular hill stations, did not expect such a landslide of tourists in such a short span of time. The internet was bustling with phrases like “Delhiites went from finding no beds in hospitals to no beds in hotels.”

Tourists from Delhi and other places flocked to hill stations in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, even as experts warn of a third wave. Photo credit: PTI.

While in principle, such an act of resilience is encouraging in that people are getting back to life, but equally worrying when you see pictures of 500 unmasked tourists at a famous waterfall in Uttarakhand. Should we blame the citizens or the administration in such a situation?

Of Carrots, Sticks And Sermons

It is here that we must look at this as a policy oversight. The government at a given level exercises its control through policy instruments such as carrots, sticks or sermons. While the administration is continuously advocating for Covid-19 appropriate behaviour (sermons), not everyone takes it seriously as it’s not compulsory.

Although there is a penalty or fine (stick) for Covid-19 inappropriate behaviour, it is not very practical to collect fines from countless people. A few thousand fines are charged every day, but this accounts for only a small proportion of violators. If they are not following the rules, they have already done the damage.

Steps To Curb Rise Of Corona

Putting the onus on regular people is not wise from a government standpoint, considering the latter is ultimately responsible for public welfare. What then, should these states have done?

  1. Preemptive action and preparedness: The state/district administration should have implemented a permit system for tourists on a web portal. The pandemic gave rise to a multitude of digital initiatives for labourers and ration card holders etc., so why not do the same with the state tourism website? If only a fixed number of people were given permits, the district administration could have kept a better track of tourists and their whereabouts.
  2. 50% occupancy at hotels or heavy fines: The state governments should have given directives to all commercial lodging facilities to only operate at 50% of their original capacity and have surprise checks to see if the same is being followed. Non-compliance would lead to heavy fines being levied.
  3. Random and ramped up RTPCR testing: The local administration should have conducted random, RTPCR testing across tourist hotspots everyday to keep the prevalence of the infection in check. Ideally, HP and Uttarakhand should have the highest testing rates per million.
  4. Targeted penalties for Covid-19 violators: The local police must become more and more aggressive in areas prone to crowding and fine individuals. It should also share videos of the same via popular, social media handles.
  5. Activating local NGOs and community groups: Local NGOs and groups should have propagated Covid-19 appropriate policing in market areas using messaging techniques and the distribution of masks. They should work alongside market associations to ensure that social distancing norms are followed.

Citizens’ Responsibility

While it is easy to call out the administration in such times, it is also the responsibility of the citizen to follow appropriate norms, given that many population groups in north India have suffered a serious impact of the virus.

Non-compliance not only makes the possibility of the third wave a reality, but also reflects poorly on the national character of how we, as citizens, respect government measures.

Featured image is for representational purposes only.
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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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