Current Affairs Current Affairs - 09 March 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 09 March 2018

General Affairs 

"Mothers-In-Law Should Take The Lead To Protect The Girl Child": Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • On International Women's Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it is a "matter of deep shame and painful" that requests have to be made for protecting the girl child and "mothers-in law should take the lead" to create a mass movement for the daughters' well-being.

    Prime Minister Modi was in Rajasthan to announce the expansion of the 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' programme' and launch the National Nutrition Mission, aimed primarily at fighting malnutrition and low birth weight. More than 10 crore people in 315 districts are expected to benefit from the nutrition programme.

    "Mistakes committed by generations against the girl child have resulted in a kind of imbalance in society and this needs to be corrected by new generations," Mr Modi said, while encouraging people to treat the girl child equally and give them more opportunities.

    Mr Modi said the 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' programme was launched two years ago in Haryana when the situation was alarming but now significant improvement has happened under the programme.

    While giving away the awards to Collectors of various districts for their performance under the 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' programme, Mr Modi said, "From classroom to sports, they shine everywhere... today, let us pledge to create an atmosphere of equality for the girl child... there is no question of any discrimination based on gender".

    Rajasthan has taken a giant stride towards closing the gender gap over the last six years, and once infamous for female infanticide, Jhunjhunu has become the first district to win the award for changing its skewed sex ratio under initiative.

Consequences Will Be Meta For This Akhilesh Yadav And Mayawati Dry Run
  • A young man wearing a faded pair of blue jeans and checked blue and white shirt, campaigning in Phulpur, makes a rookie mistake when he shouts, "Bua-babua zindabad".

    An older member of his party rebukes him. "Bua" and "Babua" are nicknames swapped sarcastically by two political heavyweights - Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav.

    By forging an alliance between these two long-standing rivals in Uttar Pradesh, Phulpur has become the laboratory for an experiment that opposition parties are all invested in, even if they are not participants.

    For the first time in nearly 25 years, Mayawati, the chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Samajwadi Party (SP), are on the same side. Mayawati, 62, who swore in 1995 to never work with the SP again after their coalition government came undone, has not put up a candidate against the SP. Instead, her workers are pacing the villages and small towns that collate into the constituency of Phulpur, asking voters to choose the SP.

    The tightrope walking that is demanded is excessive. From posters to slogans, Mayawati must be played up as much as Akhilesh Yadav, who was Chief Minister till last year when the BJP won the state sumptuously and placed it in the charge of Yogi Adityanath.

    The BJP had never won Phulpur till the general election of 2014 when the Modi tide washed across Uttar Pradesh, giving the Prime Minister's party as many as 71 of the 80 parliamentary seats in the country's most politically-prized state.

    The BJP delivered a smashing sequel to that result with the state election a year later, and opposition parties came around to the conclusion that unless Mayawati and the SP come together, Uttar Pradesh cannot be taken back from the BJP. The state elects 80 MPS, more than any other. Winning UP means winning the country.

    Mayawati has stressed that the Phulpur arrangement should be read as just that- and not a formal alliance. But like Akhilesh Yadav, she knows that the outcome will decisively shape the opposition's plans for 2019. Phulpur votes on Sunday; the results will be declared on March 14. Today, Chief Minister Adityanath held as many as three rallies in the area. Phulpur has never been this much of a political reckoning.

    Mayawati earns her political influence from her standing among Dalits, in particular the subset of Jatavs, blocs of whom moved in the last national and state election towards the BJP. The SP's strength is the support of the Yadavs and other backward castes. Both parties hope to appeal to the Muslims, who form 15% of the population in Phulpur.

    "Dalits and backward castes are old allies and this should have happened much earlier. Our fight is the same and that's why the leadership has got together and that is how we are moving forward," said Abhishek Yadav, who is a local leader with the SP.

    In the state election, the BJP won about 40% of the vote share. The SP fought the contest with the Congress; had Mayawati joined them, their combined vote share would have been 43%. A success in Phulpur could lead to a dramatic infusion of momentum and capital for plans of a combined 17-party front to take on the BJP.

    In a country teeming with first-time voters, older inhabitants recall that Mayawati's 1990s collaboration with the SP lasted barely 18 months. Their government fell, and she returned as Chief Minister with the BJP as her new partner. Raj Bahaur, a farmer at a rally for the SP, says history cannot be ignored. "They were together earlier too, but I guess they couldn't sustain it. This time I think they will stick together because they realise that that's the only way to get to power," he observed.

    Phulpur has other claims to recent fame - it was represented in parliament by Keshav Maurya till he was named Yogi Adityanath's deputy. The man who hopes to replace him in the Lok Sabha is Kaushalendra Patel, a former mayor of Varanasi, the PM's constituency.

    Keshav Maurya tells voters at a large rally that Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati have slim-to-none chances of being able to make their relationship last. "Put the elephant in your cycle. Let's see what happens," he says, referring to the party symbols of his rivals and concluding that they will collapse under the weight of their egos.

    Till the results are declared, the winner in some ways is Akhilesh Yadav who managed to persuade Mayawati to team up with him without using the Congress as a liaison. Spurned, the Congress has decided to put up its own candidate though it could mean splitting the anti-BJP vote.

    However, it is a man jailed on charges that include assault and murder who could really serve as spoiler. Atique Ahmed, a former MP, could cut into the Muslim vote in Phulpur. His son, a teen law student named Umar, is campaigning on his behalf.

    "A secular mafia is a lakh times better than a communal government," he tells voters.

    SP and BSP workers hold that Atique Ahmed, running as an independent, is being tacitly propped up by the BJP.

    Phulpur is rich now with plot and conspiracy as a fairly unstarry constituency has turned into spectacular political real estate.

Be Alert, Ensure Security Of Statues Of Icons: Yogi Adityanath Tells Police
  • Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath today directed district police chiefs to ensure security of statues of known figures, following Dalit icon BR Ambedkar's statue being vandalised in Meerut.

    The chief minister's directions comes amid a spate of incidents targeting statues and busts of icons in the country.

    "Maintaining law and order is the priority of the state and the government will take strict action against those involved in vitiating it. District police chiefs should remain alert and ensure security of statues of icons," he said in Lucknow.

    Strict action should be taken against those involved in the Meerut incident and measures should be taken to ensure that such incidents do not recur, Mr Adityanath said.

    The statue of the Dalit icon was vandalised on Tuesday and replaced yesterday by the administration.

    In Kolkata, a bust of Jana Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee was damaged yesterday following the razing of statues of Soviet icon Vladimir Illyich Lenin in Tripura.

    The bust of Dravidian movement founder EV Ramasamy Periyar in Tamil Nadu's Vellore was also desecrated, triggering widespread protests across the state.

Container Ship Still Burning In Arabian Sea, Thai Sailor Critical

  • A container ship off the Agatti island in the Arabian Sea continued to burn after more than 36 hours on Thursday, even as the condition of a rescued Thai sailor is reported to be "critical", an official said.

    The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has deployed a high speed interceptor boat from Vizhinjam Port to pick up and rush the Thai crewman to a hospital on Thursday.

    Late on Tuesday, following a massive explosion, a fire broke out on the Singapore-flagged vessel, Maersk Honam, carrying a cargo of chemicals en route to Suez in Egypt, an ICG spokesperson said.

    Since Wednesday, of the 27 crew members, including 13 Indians, 24 have been rescued. The Thai national, rescued by a foreign merchant vessel MV ALS Ceres, has been in a serious condition.

    The rescued sailors were on their way to Thiruvananthapuram, around 90 nautical miles from the disaster site.

    Four more, including an Indian sailor, are still missing and a maritime and aerial search with helicopters and an aircraft has been undertaken to trace them.

    The ICG said that the intensity of the blaze, with flames leaping more than 25 metres into the air, was so strong that the high temperature has melted many of the containers on board.

    A special fire fighting vessel, ICG Shoor has already reached the Maersk Honam and begun efforts to control the conflagration from which thick toxic fumes were emanating.

    The ICG teams found some empty lifeboats floating in the vicinity but no sign of the missing crewmen so far.

    The explosion and fire rocked the Maersk Honam, a 353m long and 54m wide ship carrying 7,860 containers around 1,300 km off the west of Kochi in Kerala, near the Agatti Isles in the Lakshadweep Islands, off the south-west coast of India.

    Shortly thereafter, the crew had abandoned the Maersk Honam as the blaze went out of control and were rescued by MV ALS Ceres after a few hours.

Sri Lanka President Removes Law And Order Minister After Communal Riots
  • Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today replaced Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the law and order minister amidst fresh violence between majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority Muslims in the Kandy district despite imposition of nationwide emergency.

    Ranjith Madduma Bandara, a senior politician from Wickremesinghe's United National Party (UNP) was sworn in this morning as the new minister in charge of the police.

    Mr Wickremesinghe's 11-day tenure as the law and order minister was marred by racial tension in the central district of Kandy since Monday.

    Muslim-owned businesses and religious sites came under attack from majority Sinhala mobs, forcing the government to enforce curfew.

    The Sri Lankan government yesterday suspended internet services and blocked access to social networking websites and messaging platforms like WhatsApp in the riot-hit areas.

    Following the incidents of violence, President Sirisena on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and deployed police in the area.

    A daytime curfew was relaxed today in Kandy where three people were killed in riots.

    "In accordance with the people's request to remove the curfew for a short period to attend their essential activities including purchasing of food and other items, President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to remove the curfew from 10:00 am and re-impose at 6:00 pm in the Kandy district," Director General of Government Information Sudarshana Gunawardhana said in a statement.

    The leader of the main Tamil party TNA R Sampanthan questioned the inaction of law enforcement authorities in response to the attacks on Muslim establishments.

    Speaking in parliament, Sampanthan, who is also the leader of the Opposition, said such incidents are clearly unacceptable and is indicative of sense of impunity.

    "People seem to have the confidence that they can engage in such acts and that the arm of the law would not reach them; that the Rule of Law would not be enforced against them," Mr Sampanthan said.

    Kandy, the country's second largest with a population of around 125,000, is an important religious centre for Buddhists, and is home to numerous monasteries and temple complexes.

    Sinhalese Buddhists make up about 75 per cent of the population in Kandy.

    The violence in Kandy reportedly triggered by an isolated incident on March 4, when a taxi carrying four Muslim men collided with a van driven by a young Buddhist man, according to local police.

    The Buddhist man was assaulted with an iron bar and succumbed to his injuries in hospital, police confirmed.

    The four Muslim men have since been arrested and remain in police custody.

    Tensions between Muslim groups and the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community in the country have escalated since the end of the civil war in May 2009.

    In 2014, violence directed against Muslim minority groups broke out in the southwestern town of Aluthgama, following a rally by hardline Buddhist nationalist monks, resulting in the death of at least three Muslims.

Business Affairs

Electric vehicles in India: Govt gets realistic, plans to develop ecosystem first
  • First came the ambitious target of having all new cars electric by 2030. Then, the about-turn of not needing any policy on electric vehicles. And now, toning down the hyperbole. The government seems to be realigning its roadmap for electric vehicles closer to what the automobile industry had envisioned.

    In December last year, SIAM or the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers came up with a white paper that stated electric vehicles will constitute 40 per cent for overall new car sales by 2030. The apex carmakers' body had predicted a 100 per cent electric vehicle sales only by 2047.

    It was the minister for road transport and highways, Nitin Gadkari, who first flaunted the idea of having electric vehicles to account for 100 per cent of all new sales by 2030. And only last month, the minister said there was no need for a policy on EVs despite vouching for it over the past one year.

    However, there may yet be some hope for the future of electric cars in the country. Speaking at the launch of National E-Mobility Programme, Power and New and Renewable Energy Minister, R K Singh said the government will bring out a policy for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the next 15-20 days.

    "The policy will provide that charging e-vehicles would be a service and not sale of electricity. Thus all those setting up charging stations would not require a licence," Singh added.

    According to a report in Financial Express, Power Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla has confirmed that the government is focusing on creating charging infrastructure and policy framework so that by 2030 more than 30 per cent of vehicles are electric vehicles.

    Power Minister further said that the policy for electric vehicle charging infrastructure should be a reality in the next 15-20 days because its draft is finalised by the Central Electricity Authority and power ministry agrees on that in-principle. The EV policy would provide norms for bidding, installation and power sale price of charging stations among others.

    The government says the objective of the National E-Mobility Programme is to provide an impetus to the entire e-mobility ecosystem including vehicle manufacturers, charging infrastructure companies, fleet operators and service providers.

    Meanwhile, state-run Energy Efficiency Service Ltd (EESL) floated another tender for 10,000 electric cars today.

    EESL had earlier floated a tender for procuring 10,000 electric cars for which Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra qualified the bids under the auction.

Initial bids for Air India stake sale to come in a couple of weeks: Civil Aviation Secretary
  • In order to expedite the Air India disinvestment process, the government is likely to invite Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from interested parties in the next couple of weeks, as mentioned by an official. Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the four-day aviation event, 'Wings India 2018', in Hyderabad, Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey said a revised EoI for disinvestment in Pawan Hans is also expected to be floated around the same time.

    According to agency reports, aviation companies including InterGlobe Aviation's IndiGo, Turkey's Celebi Aviation Holdings and Tata Group have expressed interest in buying some of Air India's businesses.  Last year in June, the Union Cabinet had approved privatisation of the debt-laden national carrier, which is kept afloat on taxpayers' money. On January 10, in an attempt to fast-track Air India's divestment process, the Cabinet allowed foreign airlines to invest upto 49% in Air India.

    A group headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with Rothschild and Ernst & Young as consultants has been appointed to chalk out the strategy for Air India's stake sale.

    "Our ministry is presently engaged in the important task of finding buyers for Air India, its subsidiaries and Pawan Hans. We are committed to take it forward very, very fast," RN Choubey said. "We expect that the EoIs for Air India should come out possibly in the next couple of weeks. A revised EoI for Pawan Hans will also be coming forward around the same time," he further added.

    The government is likely to split up Air India's various businesses before offering it for sale. The airline has six subsidiaries, out of which three are making losses, with assets worth about USD 4.6 billion. The government has pumped USD 3.6 billion since 2012 to bail out the airline.

    Unlike how things are looking for the airline, air traffic in India has only increased. Choubey said India's domestic air passenger traffic has grown over 20 per cent in the last three years. However, because of the increasing oil prices, the growth this fiscal is expected to be around 17.5 per cent. Nevertheless, if oil prices remain below USD 80 per barrel, the travel demand is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 per cent over the next 20 years, he said.

    The government's regional air connectivity scheme 'Udan' has further boosted traffic growth in the country, Choubey said. "As many as 56 new airports have been added into the network in the last two years," he said.

    Besides, many more airports are expected to be operational in the next six to eight months as by that time the second phase of Udan will also take off, he added.

Flipkart logistics park near Bangalore to help create 20,000 jobs in next two years
  • The logistics sector plays a crucial role in any nation's development story. In India, the sector has made immense strides in recent times courtesy GST, relaxed FDI regulations, the granting of infrastructure status, et al, a lot remains to be done. India's rank in the World Bank Logistics Performance Index (2016) was a dismal 35 - albeit up 19 places since the previous survey in 2014. Also, logistics costs at home are among the highest in the world.

    To address this issue, back in 2016, the government announced plans to develop around 35 Multi-Modal Logistics Parks (MMLP) across the country under the Logistics Efficiency Enhancement Programme. The idea was that these parks would provide a variety of services in a single location, thus enabling firms to produce more and deliver faster to customers, which in turn translates into major savings.

    Flipkart, India's homegrown e-commerce leader, has just announced plans to help build this critical infrastructure by setting up a 4.5 million sq ft state-of-the-art Flipkart Logistics Park in Karnataka. According to Flipkart Stories, the company will acquire 100 acres of land in the outskirts of Bengaluru to build the carbon-neutral, fully-integrated park. The latter intends to improve supply chain efficiency by deploying mechanised warehousing, acting as a freight aggregation and distribution hub, and by leveraging technology for intelligent transport systems.

    "We will invest hundreds of millions into this project as it is aimed to bring down overall costs and improve delivery efficiency. For any e-commerce business, logistics is perhaps the most important piece and this project will help with that," Amitesh Jha, head of Ekart, the logistics arm of Flipkart, told The Times of India. According to him variable costs of the company's logistics costs could go down by about 20% once the project kicks off. "Your standard e-commerce delivery time will come down by as much as 50%," he added.

    Apart from catalysing the logistics industry, the company lists several economic benefits of the park. To begin with, it pegs direct job creation at around 5,000 people by 2020, and a further 15,000 jobs indirectly through peripheral industries like trucking, services, etc. Apart from attracting new investments in the vicinity, rural development will also see a boost through construction, increased settlement and connectivity. Flipkart reportedly aims to complete the first phase of this project - one third of the total - by mid-2019.

    But, why Bengaluru?

    Apart from the fact that the etailer is headquartered here, the city's proximity to Chennai offers the opportunity to serve a vast consumption base of over 17 million people. According to the Asian Development Bank, which last year conducted a pre-feasibility study to gauge the suitability of MMLP locations for the government, Bengaluru made a strong case being home to 315 large-scale industries with aggregate investments of $2.3 billion, with two national industrial corridors nearby.

    If the much-hyped talks with Walkmart Inc prove fruitful - the world's largest retailer is reportedly eyeing a big stake in Flipkart and is willing to shell out as much as $10 billion for it - then funding these grand plans won't be a challenge. But even if the above deal does not pan out, Flipkart can't afford to go slow on its logistics plans. Not if it wants to retain its lead over arch-rival Amazon. According to media reports, Amazon owns 56 fulfilment centres, boasting over 13 million cubic feet of storage space across 13 states, compared to Flipkart's 21 centres across nine regions.

    Once set up, this one-of-a-kind logistics park will reportedly take over as the hub of Flipkart's operations.

Bankruptcy Cases: Two close to resolution; six at different stages; four nowhere
  • The creditors have chosen Tata Steel and UK-based Liberty House for running the bankrupt companies Bhushan Steel and Amtek Auto, respectively. Of the remaining 10 big companies taken to National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for finding resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), six are at different stages and the final selection of the highest bidders are expected by next month. Of course, there are legal hurdles in the way of taking the final call in some cases. In the rest four cases--- Jyoti Structures, Alok Industries, Lanco Infratech and Era Infra--- the proceedings are yet to gain momentum. A status check.

    Bhushan Steel

    Tata Steel emerged as the highest bidder of the company, with a Rs 36,000 crore resolution plan and 12 per cent equity offering to lenders. JSW Steel was another bidder in race for the company.

    Amtek Auto

    Liberty House has emerged as the highest bidder for Amtek Auto. American hedge fund Deccan Value had also submitted the bid for the auto component manufacturer. The deal value is expected to be around Rs 4,500 crore.

    Essar Steel

    ArcelorMittal and NuMetal, a consortium backed by VTB Group and estranged promoter Rewant Ruia, had submitted the bids. The sources say that the sale will be delayed as creditors of Essar pushed back the decision after the eligibility of the bidders was questioned. ArcelorMittal held stake in another bankrupt company Uttam Galva.  

    Jaypee Infratech

    JSW Group is believed to be the highest bidder for Jaypee Infratech's assets, with an offer of around Rs 9,900 crore. The Interim Resolution Professional had received six offers, including from Adani group and Jaypee Infratech's parent company Jaiprakash Associates. The final decision is expected in this month.

    Monnet Ispat

    There is only one bid for Monnet. The resolution plan was submitted jointly by JSW Steel and AION Capital and the final decision is expected by third week of March, says a banking source. The media reported that JSW-AION submitted a Rs 3,750 crore bid for the steelmaker.

    ABG Shipyard

    UK-based Liberty House has become the sole bidder for the Ahmedabad-based shipbuilding company after Shapoorji Pallonji group withdrew from the race. The company is believed to have offered Rs 3,000 crore for the beleaguered shipyard.

    Bhushan Power and Steel

    The resolution plan for the steel company is likely to be finalised in this month. Earlier reports said that Tata Steel is the highest bidder with Rs 24,500 crore offer, ahead of JSW Steel. But Liberty House went to NCLT against the resolution professional and lenders to Bhushan Power and Steel for not accepting its offer.

    Electrosteel Steels

    Vedanta, Tata Steel, and Edelweiss Alternative Assets Advisors and Renaissance Steel India had submitted resolution plans for the company. Reports said that Vedanta was well poised to emerge the preferred bidder. However, Renaissance moved NCLT questioning the eligibility of Vedanta and Tata Steel in submitting the bids.

    Apart from the 12 cases, Binani Cement has also attracted quite a few potential bidders. Dalmia Bharat-led consortium has submitted the highest bid for the cement maker, according to the sources. The consortium-which also has Bain Piramal Resurgence Fund--- has offered a Rs 6,700-crore, nudging out Aditya Birla Group's UltraTech Cement. But UltraTech has challenged the proceedings at the Kolkata bench of the NCLT, seeking transparency on the bid evaluation. Sources say that the committee of creditors (CoC) has firmed up its decision for Dalmia.

Sensex closes 318 pts higher at 33,351, Nifty rises to 10,242 level; SBI, ICICI Bank, Adani Ports top gainers
  • The Sensex and Nifty snapped the six-day losing streak on Thursday following a strong Asian market closing on easing fears of a global trade war as the White House signalled it would water down plans for contentious metal tariffs. Short covering also led to the bounce back, said analysts. While the Sensex closed 318 points higher to 33,351 level, the Nifty rose 88 points to 10,242 level.

    The key indices rose in the last hour of trade supported by lenders such as ICICI Bank (3.58%), HDFC Bank  (0.93%) and SBI (4.09%).

    SBI (4.09%), ICICI Bank (3.58%), and Adani Ports (2.95%) were the top  Sensex gainers.

    Karthikraj Lakshmanan, senior fund manager-equities, BNP Paribas Mutual Fund said markets ended the session on a strong footing as worries surrounding  the trade war eased after it was reported that the United States import tariff plan may spare select countries from much of the impact. Both the benchmark Sensex and the Nifty finally closed the day with gains of over 0.50%. Sectoral performance was a mixed bag today. While the healthcare, FMCG and metals indices on the National Stock exchange (NSE) traded lower, gains of over 1% were witnessed in the banking indices.

    The recovery was led by banking sector stocks with BSE bankex rising 389 points or 1.43% to 27559 points.

    Bank Nifty rose 343 points or 1.42% to 24,477 level, after recovering over 400 points from the day's lows.

    Brokers said buying by domestic institutional investors amid a firm trend at other Asian bourses led the markets higher.

    Domestic institutional investors bought shares worth a net Rs 409.34 crore, while foreign portfolio investors sold shares worth a net Rs 719.78 crore yesterday, provisional data showed.

    Market breadth was negative with 1202 stocks closing higher against 1511 ending in the red on BSE.

    Global markets 

    Share prices rose in Europe and Asia on Thursday after China reported its exports surged nearly 45 percent in February from a year earlier.

    Germany's DAX slipped 0.1 percent to 12,234.80 and the CAC 40 of France edged 0.1 percent higher to 5,194.25. Britain's FTSE was flat at 7,154.64. S&P 500 futures were flat at 2,722.70 and Dow futures fell 0.1 percent to 24,964.00, pointing to a downbeat start on Wall Street.

    ASIA: Japan's Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 percent higher to 21,368.07 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.5 percent to 30,654.52. Australia's S&P ASX 200 surged 0.7 percent to 5,942.90 and the Kospi in South Korea gained 1.3 percent to 2,433.08. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 0.5 percent to 3,288.41. Shares also were higher in Southeast Asia.

General Awareness

Social empowerment.
#YesIBleed Campaign

  • Context: The government has launched the #YesIBleed menstrual hygiene campaign.

    What is it?

    “#Yes I Bleed” aims to create a holistic approach to the issue of menstruation, which is an experience that transcends culture, class, and caste. The campaign has been initiated formally across all multi-media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube to spread awareness about the issue.

    Background:

    The United Nations has recognised menstrual hygiene as a global public health and a human rights issue yet across the globe. “Period poverty” as some call it, is a reality for millions of women and girls.

    Concerns:

    Today, in India, approximately 35 crore women menstruate and it is estimated that only 12% use proper menstrual hygiene practices and menstrual products. The remaining 88% having no access whatever. They find sanitary pads unaffordable.
    In India’s rural areas, with the lack of resources, education and awareness about personal hygiene, not just lack of information about hygiene products, the women don’t even have any conversation around menstruation.
    For the less privileged, periods are the few ‘cursed’ days of the month. A woman on her periods cannot enter the temple, kitchen or take part in any auspicious occasion – because she is ‘impure’.
    The 88% who do not have access to sanitary pads use unsanitised cloth, husk sand, tree leaves and even ash. These can cause severe reproductive health problems and infections, and can also lead to cervical cancer.
    Also, there is the issue of school dropouts and poor attendance because of inadequate menstrual hygiene management. This also is one of the causes for loss of wages for women labourers.
    Equally important is the safe disposal of used sanitary pads, which actually are an environmental disaster. In villages, the used pads often end up in village ponds, exposing every human being and animal to the risk of infection.

    Way ahead:

    Menstruation is still a taboo subject in our country and a topic that even women are uncomfortable discussing in public. This was a much-needed awareness campaign, and added that the subject of menstrual hygiene is “more about a change of mindset than simply about the use of proper menstrual products”. Mindset change is happening, but much more needs to be done.

    It is high time people dispel the misconceptions that surround the normal physiological process of menstruation and discard the restrictions imposed on women during “the time of the month”.

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