The state government informed Friday the Bombay High Court it had started the ‘Asmita Yojana’ in March 2018 to provide affordable and subsidised sanitary napkins to schoolgirls and women through nearly 30, 000 self-help groups (SHGs) and has since sold nearly 1. 6 crore sanitary pads.
Under the scheme, the state government submitted, girl students from Zilla Parishad schools aged between 11 and 19 years can purchase a pack of eight sanitary napkins for Rs 5, while women from rural areas could purchase the same Rs 24.
The state government was responding to a public interest litigation (PIL), filed by law students Nikita Gore and Vaishnavi Gholave, through advocate Vinod Sangvikar, seeking direction to the government to recognise sanitary napkin as an essential commodity by making changes to the Essential Commodity Act, 1955 and supplying the same through the public distribution system (PDS) during the lockdown.
The High Court had earlier directed the central and state governments to respond to the plea that also sought a direction to the authorities for effective implementation of the ‘Menstrual Hygiene Management National Guidelines, 2015’.
On Friday, the Maharashtra government informed a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Sarang V Kotwal that the Asmita Yojana was implemented from 2018 with the objective of “ensuring accessibility and availability of affordable sanitary pads across rural areas through women self-help groups (SHGs)”.
The state government said that issue was truly important for the social welfare of women and requires more attention and systematic efforts to address menstrual hygiene issues for women and adolescent girls across rural and urban areas.
The state government, through Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission, Rural Development department CEO, I R Vimala, submitted an affidavit stating, “Total 29,875 women SHGs are registered under Asmita Scheme across 34 districts who have sold 19,78,140 packets of sanitary napkins (total 1.6 crore pads) to women and adolescent girls and the efforts are still ongoing.” The affidavit stated that it was an additional livelihood opportunity for SHGs by engaging themselves in the sale of Asmita sanitary napkins.
Seeking that the plea is disposed of, the state added that it had supplied over one lakh packets of sanitary napkins during Covid-19 lockdown.
“Prime objective was to meet the demand for essential goods, sanitary napkins and also ensure a livelihood for women SHGs during the lockdown. The state has effectively followed the Asmita Yojana during the lockdown period as well.”
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