A year since sanitary napkin vending machines were installed at seven police stations of the city, women police officers and visitors have largely welcomed the move. A vending machine has been installed at the Mumbai Police headquarters near Crawford Market too, and it may soon have a napkin disposal machine as well. In February 2016, vending machines dispensing sanitary napkins were installed inside the women officer’s restrooms at seven police stations in Zone VII — Mulund, Navghar, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar, Bhandup, Parkside and Kanjurmarg. With a pack of three pads available for Rs 10, the user-friendly machines offer the women officers an affordable and convenient access to sanitary napkins.
Its greatest merit, according to women officers, appears to be that it provides discretion. A woman inspector from Mulund explains: “It is awkward for women to buy sanitary napkins at medical stores, more so for women in uniform. These machines allow us to do our jobs better, providing us easy, comfortable access to this facility.” With 37 women officers at her station and around 200 in the zone, the machines are very helpful in emergency situations, she adds.
“We have installed the machine at the Police Headquarters in South Mumbai as well, and a proposal is under way to install sanitary napkin disposal machines as well,” says Deputy Commissioner of Police Rashmi Karandikar, the public relations officer for Mumbai Police.
A sub-inspector from the Ghatkopar police station says the facility is useful when there is no time to go out and buy sanitary napkins. She says the machines have also proved useful for girls arrested or brought to the station for recording of statements.
Some police officers, however, feel the napkins dispensed by the vending machines are best used in emergencies and not suitable for regular use. “Most of us usually buy sanitary napkins from medical stores, as the ones dispensed from the machines do not match the preferred quality. Besides, they are available only in one size,” says an assistant police inspector from the Bhandup police station. Larger sizes are not available, she says.
According to Karandikar, no complaint has been made regarding the machines so far. A senior police officer who oversaw the implementation of the initiative, however, admits there have been grievances, but says these could not be addressed as the machines would have to be modified for the purpose, which could not be done. “Due to this, the machines were not set up in other police stations,” she adds.