Nearly a year after Finance Minister Manpreet Badal announced Rs 10 crore in the state budget (2018-19) for providing free sanitary napkins to girls in government schools of Punjab from Class 6 to 12, the Amarinder Singh government is yet to issue work orders to the vendor picked to cover all government schools in the state. Sources in Education Department said that with financial bids being opened only recently on February 8, after several failed e-tendering attempts, free napkins were unlikely to be supplied to girl students before next session, which begins in April.
The Punjab government will present the budget estimates for 2019-20, along with various accounts and CAG audit reports, in the ongoing budget session of the Vidhan Sabha on Monday. The first e-tender call to procure sanitary napkins for 6.64 lakh girls (Class 6 to 12 in all government schools of Punjab) was issued on September 27 last year, six months after the announcement was made in the budget. But this tender call failed as only two bidders applied against the minimum requirement of three.
The department then extended the date of accepting applications till October 31, hoping more companies will apply but without success. It was further extended till November 12 and the tender call was finally cancelled on November 26 as still only two companies were in the race. A fresh re-tender was then issued on January 4 this year. Sources said that finally the department received applications from three companies and financial bids were opened last week (February 8). Work orders are expected to be released soon as a company offering napkins for Rs 2.75 per piece has been finalised to supply 4.80 crore napkins in four quarters (1.20 crore napkins per quarter).
As per the tender document prepared by the office of Director General Of School Education (DGSE), girls will be getting a packet with six napkins every month. “The financial bids have finally been opened. A company ‘Nandini Marketing Private Limited’ has been selected after bidding process which has quoted Rs 2.75 per napkin as the cost. Work orders will be released soon. Earlier tenders failed as only two companies applied and there were some technical glitches too,” said an official from education department.
Prashant Goyal, Director General Of School Education (DGSE), said that work orders are in final stage and supply of napkins in schools will start soon. Also, the Education Department has demanded Rs 12 crore in next budget (2019-2020) to provide sanitary napkins to girls after finding that Rs 10 crore is not enough to provide six napkins to 6.64 lakh girls every month.
The Education Department has also tied up with a private company ‘Niine’ which will be providing sanitary napkins free of cost to 100 schools in Patiala, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Tarn Taran and Jalandhar, and conducting hygiene awareness workshops in five districts. The company has already covered 11 schools in Patiala. “Work has already started in Patiala where more than 77,000 napkins have already been distributed,” Richa Singh, CEO, Niine.
It is not for the first time that sanitary napkins for girls in school were promised in Punjab budget. The first such budgetary allocation 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’ and the girls never got any napkins.