In a bid to promote menstrual hygiene and reduce dropout rate of girl students, the Punjab government Saturday allocated Rs10 crore for providing free sanitary napkins to all girls from Class VI to XII in government schools.
It is not for the first time that Punjab government has talked about menstruation and sanitary pads in its budget. The first such budgetary allocation for sanitary napkins was made in 2016-17 when then finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa under SAD-BJP government announced ‘Swastha Kanya Yojna’ and allocated Rs 24 crore to provide sanitary kits to girls. However, the scheme never took off due to ‘financial constraints’.
Ravi Bhagat, currently the chief administrator of Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA), who was then Ludhiana deputy commissioner, was the one who had taken an initiative and shot off a letter to then education minister Daljeet Singh Cheema, demanding that sanitary napkins be provided free-of-cost to girls in government schools as they do not have access to them due to financial constraints leading to dropouts in schools.
Bhagat then also entered into a tie-up with a firm and got sanitary napkins vending machines installed in 39 government schools in Ludhiana. The machines dispensed a napkin for Rs 2.
“We wanted to install these machines in all schools of Punjab and I wrote to the then education minister. However, machine was costing around Rs 23,000 each and had to be refilled at own expense. So, government found it to be a costly affair. Then it was proposed that girls will be given napkins free of cost by government and sanitary kits were proposed. The scheme, as per my knowledge, never took off,” he said.
Bhagat said that he is now hoping for practical implementation of the project. “I do not know why it did not take off earlier despite a budget being allocated for it, but at least now it should take off.