This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

We All Talk Of Sustainability, But What Interventions Must This Comprise? Experts Discuss

More from IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

As human exploitation towards the environment increases rapidly, leading to revolt by the Nature in form of disasters, epidemics and pandemics, it is important to discuss how human activity has led us here. The ongoing pandemic has bought to light that it is important to rebuild a relationship where Nature and humans exist in harmony and peace, helping each other in progressive development.

Keeping this in mind, the Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD), Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), Counterview and Centre for Development, Communication and Studies (CDECS), Jaipur, organised an online discussion on May 21, 2021.

Dr Arjun Kumar, Director at IMPRI, began by briefly introducing the moderator, speaker and discussants, and the work they are involved in, after which the discussion was handed over to moderator Prof Sunil Ray.

image 50
Prof Sunil Ray, Former Director, AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna

Prof Sunil Ray, Former Director, AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, Patna, began the discussion by introducing the speaker, Dr Bharat Patankar, Leading Activist, Left Wing Shramik Mukti Dal, Peasant Movement, South Maharashtra; and Architect, Equitable Water Distribution Movement, Maharashtra.

He also briefed the audience on Dr Patankar’s work on cohesive development diplomacy, highlighting the disturbance in the gap between human beings and Nature, and how human civilization can be saved by re-establishing this relationship, especially in the context of an ongoing pandemic. He quoted from one of Dr Patankar’s books:

 “The most intractable challenge that human civilization confronts today is how to reverse contemporary development narratives that reiterate a catastrophic life situation.”

Replenishing The Human-Nature Relationship

image 51
Dr Bharat Patankar, Leading Activist, Left Wing Shramik Mukti Dal, Peasant Movement, South Maharashtra; and Architect, Equitable Water Distribution Movement, Maharashtra.

Dr Patankar began the discussion by bringing into light the fact that the start of a disturbing relationship between humans and Nature began with humans getting separated from the rest of Nature in a way that they wanted to create their own world. He said:

“A new relation started with misusing humans from Nature.”

Dr Patankar talked about human intervention in Nature without disruption, up to the point till agriculture was not stable. Devastation between humans and Nature started with the advent of industrial development, more specifically with industrial development based on fossil fuels and amassing natural resources in people’s hands. According to Dr Patankar:

In the present scenario, no natural resources are free of ownership.

Among the factors contributing to the lack of cohesive development are urbanisation (with more population moving to the cities, and a much higher concentration of people in the cities) and disturbance in exchange of matter between humans and Nature. The extent of human intervention is at such a large extent that humans are unable to give to Nature as much as they take from it; renewability is decreasing.

Also read:

The pandemic shows that there has been reverse migration from industrial areas to village areas. It has revealed that the role of agrarian activities is of utmost importance in sustaining the economy. For re-establishing the cohesiveness, a 100% renewable-based economy is required. Dr Patankar pointed out that there are plenty of sustainable replacements available around the world, but they are not being implemented in the larger context.

In highlighting the importance of renewable energy, Dr Patankar said, “What India needs is not atomic energy research, but research on wind energy, solar energy, sustainable agriculture and a new kind of forest management.” The reestablishment of cohesiveness should be on a scientific basis.

The Role Of Gender In Conservation

image 52
Dr Nagamani Rao, Retired Associate Professor, Karve Institute of Social Service, Pune

Dr Nagamani Rao, Retired Associate Professor, Karve Institute of Social Service, Pune, shifted the conversation to mention examples of the Chipko Movement and the role of women in making the movement successful. She also discussed that despite playing a large role in saving Nature and historically being closer to Nature, women are usually excluded from the development picture. She believes that equity and gender are at the centre of searching for alternatives for cohesive development.

She pointed out that capitalism involves technological fixes for everything, including the pandemic, with profit-making as its ultimate aim, leading to inequalities inaccessibility of resources.

“There is a requirement to focus on value-added needs for sustainability.”

Dr Patankar agreed with her and explained that all natural resources need to be collectively controlled. He also pointed out that since it was women who gave birth to agricultural practices, historically, their knowledge and participation are required to reinstate sustainable agriculture. He further clarified that the focus should be on ecological and renewable-based production and not simply sustainability, which aims to limit the usage of resources instead of growing them.


Inequalities in Accessing Natural Resources

The discussion was taken over by Prof G Sridevi, Associate Professor, Central University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, who focused the conversation on agricultural and common resources. She mentioned that more performers and scientists are seen focusing on agriculture practices that are sustainable environmentally, economically, and socially.

Since the 1950s, the emphasis has been on growing industrial crops in large amounts using large amounts of resources and fertilisers, which are damaging the soil, water and overall climate, and further influencing nutrition security. There is a need to adopt natural methods. However, anything produced naturally is expensive, and thus common people are unable to afford organically grown products. She said:

“If we look into richly endowed natural resources, it becomes a site of catastrophic exploitation, and threatening many of livelihoods through practices such as mining.”

She then requested Dr Patankar to comment on the existing inequalities in accessing equal and natural resources. To this, he replied that movements of women’s and caste liberation can only be attained when they are allowed to make decisions, share natural resources and access alternative job opportunities that are free of the caste system. He also conveyed that in regards to natural resources, there are no natural resources that are not controlled by companies and agencies. He said:

“People with more land get more water for agricultural use. If water is a public resource it should be accessible to everyone equally.”

The water rights movement is the movement to establish collective rights over the water. According to him, the only solution to equitable distribution of natural resources is:

  1. liberation from shackles of caste oppression,
  2. class oppression, and
  3. assertion of equal rights on all-natural resources.

There are experiments happening in organic agriculture, however, to replicate those experiments, resources need to be provided to experiment more and build a scientific basis for those experiments. There should also be a change in government policies for its generalisation. People need to be interested in re-establishing cohesive development.

Prof Sridevi brought out examples of NRIs taking place around the villages in Andhra Pradesh who are growing organic products and selling them at huge prices. She then proceeded to ask Dr Patankar how common people can access organic products. He suggested that people should share any thoughts or ideas to increase production and accessibility to naturally grown products, thereby increasing their availability.

image 53
Dr Anamika Priya Darshini, Lead, Research, Sakshamaa: Initiative for What Works, Centre for Catalyzing Change

Dr Anamika Priya Darshini, Lead, Research, Sakshamaa: Initiative for What Works, Centre for Catalyzing Change, then took over to point out that the unhealthy gap between Nature and humans is only increasing, inviting more natural calamities. The Nature-exploitation model can’t work and the pandemic has only increased the gap between the rich and poor.

She questioned Dr Patankar on how the process of humans reconnecting with Nature can be initiated in a neo-liberal world like today. To this, Dr Patankar replied that there is no shortcut to reconnecting humans and Nature, and that exploitation and deprivation should be reduced; for this, people need to come together from different levels of fields such as theoretical and practical levels.

image 54
Dr Simi Mehta

Dr Simi Mehta came forward with Sunderlal Bahuguna’s emphasis on the gift of human life, the benefits of an enlightened mind, and the importance of being empathetic towards Nature. People are trying to misuse their skills and abilities to assert power on Nature, and Nature is responding in form of disasters. Thus, it is imperative to go beyond material gains and focus on the collective development of humans and Nature for the betterment of the world.


The session was concluded by Prof Ray, who summarised the learnings of the session that illuminated the effects of the distorted relationship between humans and Nature leading to the pandemic, and which can further lead to more severe consequences. He pointed out that sustainability is a vague concept and the focus needs to be more on ecological development, particularly in the agriculture sector. He emphasised the need for women’s leaders to re-establish the cohesion between humans and Nature.

There is a need for more scientific experimentation on organic farming, and to make it affordable and accessible to the general population. People need to be motivated to work towards restoring the relationship between humans and Nature, and stop its exploitation and degradation in order to avoid the many upcoming calamities and disasters, and also to promote a more peaceful living for the people. The session then ended with Dr Arjun Kumar, thanking the guest speaker, discussants, the moderator and the audience.

Acknowledgement: Mahi Dugar is an intern at IMPRI.

YouTube link for The Global Pandemic and Cohesive Development of Humans and Nature

Simi Mehta, Anshula Mehta, Sunidhi Agarwal, Ritika Gupta

You must be to comment.

More from IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

Similar Posts

By Charkha Features

By Ena Zafar

By Pavki Pahwa

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