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“For The Health Of The People, It Would Be Wise To Postpone Elections”.

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The Coronavirus, which appeared in 2019, has undergone several mutations, each one being a deadlier variant. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and now Omicron, which is already considered to be an aspect of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Currently, Omicron is the latest concern that could trigger the third COVID wave in our country.

voter in india
The elections are being held in the shadow of Omicron. (Representational image)

We know that this variant has spread to many countries, and the United States and Europe are suffering more and being partially locked down. At the moment, India does not face as many cases of Omicron. However, after detecting the first two cases on 2 December, 2021, the total cases crossed 1,000 within a short period of 20 to 30 days. This is alarming for us.

Since we begin the new year in the shadow of Omicron’s fear, many things need to be done next year. The biggest one is our state elections. Political leaders are all set to fight in the coming elections. Rallies and campaigns are already on, but is it possible to hold an election yet?

As the tenure of the five state assemblies is ending next year (Goa on 15 March, Manipur on 19 March, Punjab on 15 March, Uttrakhand on 17 March and Uttar Pradesh on 14 May), assembly elections are expected in the first 2 months of the year (January, February). But the current situation makes it impossible to conduct such a large-scale assembly election because it may result in heavy losses of lives.

Will Postponing The Elections Be A Smart Move?

Amit Shah Bengal Rally
Amit Shah during a roadshow in support of Suvendu Adhikari (L) at Nandigram on March 30, 2021. (Photo by Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The answer is yes. Prevention is always better than cure. In our country, the number of COVID cases are increasing every day. We are not in a position to take chances with people. Organising elections according to the constitution is crucial, but nothing is more significant than life. We can’t afford a horrible situation like the second wave.

I would say no to the third wave, and the easiest and best way to cut the chance of another COVID wave is precautions.

Variants of COVID-19, such as Omicron, remind us that the pandemic is far from over. A wrong step can lead us to a situation we faced in April and May of 2021. It is, therefore, essential to stop all public rallies and campaigns where thousands of supporters gather because not everybody follows the protocols of COVID.

At the time of the second wave, the UP panchayat election and West Bengal assembly election were held. The consequences of that were very severe. Thousands of people, including government employees on duty during the election. It is always helpful to learn from our past mistakes, and this election is the right opportunity to do that.

The UP Minister of Health stated the government is prepared and will take care of all facilities, oxygen concentrators, ICU beds, doctors and vaccinations. While it is commendable that we are preparing our health structure for the future, it is better to prevent the situation from getting more serious.

Taking the risk of human life in the most densely populated state is not a wise move. For the health of the people, it would be wise to postpone the assembly elections.

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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.

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        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.

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        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
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