(Written by Shreya Agrawal)
Elucidating the ‘Janaushadhi Suvidha’ scheme, a government press release last year said, “This is a special gift for all women on the eve of World Environment Day, as this unique product would ensure affordability, hygiene as well as ease of use and disposal for them”.
With the aim to provide women with oxo-biodegradable sanitary napkins at a meagre cost of Rs 2.5/pad across 3,600 Janaushadhi Kendras in the country, the scheme was launched under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojna (PMBJP). The scheme was launched to make medicines available at affordable prices.
A year on, most women are still unaware of the scheme. “I do not know about any such initiative by the government for women,” said Jaishree Kumar, a second year History student at Ramjas College. The question evoked a similar response from Rhythm Patel, a second year B.Com (H) student of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, and many other girls who were asked whether they knew about the scheme.
The reason for women not being aware of the initiative, according to Raveena Roy who runs a Janaushadhi Kendra in Malviya Nagar, Delhi is because “there hasn’t been enough advertising from the government’s end to promote such a well-intended scheme.”
She adds that girls worry about the quality of the pads available at Janaushadhi stores at Rs 10 for a packet of four sanitary napkins, “because they have been using commercial pads for long”, adding that quality concerns have restricted girls from availing the benefit of low-cost sanitary napkins.
Agrees Anoushka Sharma, a second year student of Journalism at Delhi School of Journalism, who said that she would “prefer commercial sanitary napkins over those available at Janaushadhi kendras”.
Roy, however, points out that there hasn’t been a single quality complain from customers. “In fact they come to buy the pads again after trying it once. Girls from all economic backgrounds buy these pads”, she told indianexpress.com when asked if there was a need to check the quality of the pads.
However, since the sanitary napkins at Janaushadhi are available in only one size and type, girls prefer to go for the OTC varieties. Anita, who runs a Janaushadhi Kendra in Palam, New Delhi, says, “Girls prefer varied sizes according to their needs which is why they are inclined towards buying sanitary pads from popular brands which have started providing pads in varying sizes such as regular, XL and even XXL.”
Khawar Khan, who runs a store in Okhla points out that if people won’t know about the scheme, how will they come to buy it? On being asked why his store has no stock of sanitary pads, he cited irregular supply from the government.
“There are frequent disruptions in supply of sanitary napkins and other Janaushadhi medicines from higher authorities. This has made sustenance in this business difficult leading to closing down of many Janaushadhi kendras, including two in New Delhi’s Badarpur,” he shared.
Romsi Gupta, a second year student of English literature at Kamala Nehru College said that even though she is aware of the scheme, she prefers commercial sanitary napkins as “they are readily available in any medical store while Janaushadhi Kendras are far off and hard to locate.” Lack of enough and easily accessible stores is another challenge which restricts this scheme from thriving.
On being asked why there were only few Kendras across the country, Khan said that “there can only be one Janaushadhi kendra within a 5km area. This is to ensure the stores survive without competition from other stores in the same locality.”
Currently, such kendras are located in areas like Shakarpur, Mayur Vihar, Sangam Vihar, Malviya Nagar, Okhla, Hari Nagar, Subash Nagar in New Delhi; Bhopal, Dewas, Gwalior, Indore in Madhya Pradesh; Patna, Muzaffarpur, Gaya in Bihar; and Ambala, Faridabad, Rohtak in Haryana to name a few.
The writer is an intern at indianexpress.com