Radha (40), a mother of six, stopped buying sanitary napkins about a year ago. It was an expenditure she couldn’t afford since her husband’s salary didn’t increase last year. Budget cuts were made, and so did her share of Rs 100/month on sanitary napkins. “I started using cloth because pads are too expensive. We are a big family of seven and our income is Rs 17,000-Rs 20,000 a month. If pads were cheaper, everyone would buy them,” says Radha, who wonders how the GST (Goods and Services Tax) will affect sale of sanitary napkins.
A resident of New Ashok Nagar, 32-year-old Saroj has three daughters — aged 11, 15 and 16. With three menstruating members in the family, the housewife spends Rs 300 a month on sanitary napkins.
“The months I cannot afford the right number of packets of sanitary napkins, I end up using cloth. I can’t let my daughters use it, so I compromise,” she says. Her husband earns Rs 15,000 per month and the “pads are unaffordable every few months”.
With the GST putting toiletries, including sanitary napkins, in the 12 per cent slab, she is nervous. “This is not a luxury item. We are women, we go through this every month, and not out of choice. Sanitary napkins should cost very little; it should be tax-free,” says Saroj.
Last November, 13-year-old Anshu was acquainted with the sanitary napkin by her mother, who ensured that her Class VIII daughter would never use cloth. The promise was broken in January when the family couldn’t afford sanitary napkins, and she had to switch to cloth.
“Six people live in one house, and only my father earns, that too about Rs 10,000 per month. With one breadwinner, there are a lot of problems. Even a raise of Rs 20 (in the price) will affect us,” says Anshu.
Her friends — Lakshmi and Shalini, aged 14 — chime in and say how shocked they were when they learnt that the new tax would make sanitary napkins more expensive. “We come from low-income families. If they keep increasing the rate, we won’t be able to afford it one day. What will we do then?” asks Shalini.
While a campaign asking for exemption of tax on sanitary napkins has been gaining momentum, a finance ministry official said this is not the solution. “Domestic manufacturers won’t be able to claim input tax credit and the production cost of sanitary napkins will go up,” he said.
As of now, there are no figures to indicate how much a packet of sanitary napkins will cost or the rise in prices once GST is implemented.