Bhubaneswar: The year 2017 saw many changes in the system, including implementation of Goods and Services tax (GST) to which public’s response has been mixed. The most outrageous one has been on GST levied on sanitary napkins. Recently, a group of women in Gwalior launched a campaign, urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make sanitary napkins GST free.
The campaign aims at collecting 1000 sanitary napkins with a message on each, to be sent to the Prime Minister and started on January 4 by some girls led by an activist. Here’s what people in Odisha have to say about it.
Bhubaneswar-based activist, Snigda Panigrahi, extended her support to the campaign. She believes health sector is important as a part of sustainable development for youth. “Hygiene plays an important role here especially for women, and sanitary pads are a necessity that has to be fulfilled without household having to pay too much. Given that the price of all commodities had gone up, basic necessities must be made GST free,” she said.
There is awareness in Odisha’s urban areas but only up to a limited extent, she opined. “I have seen women from middle-class families using one napkin a day in case of less flow which is absolutely unhealthy. This leads to fungal infection. Rural women prefer the repeated use of old clothes. They are not willing to spend a hefty amount on sanitary napkins. When these clothes aren’t dried properly in sun, given the taboos related to it, it leads to health problems in women. When there are maternity benefits, what’s wrong with GST-free napkins?” she asked.
Applauding the bold step, Dipti Mishra, a student, said if condoms can be tax-free, why not sanitary napkins.
Odisha-based producer-director of Bollywood movie Ranchi Diaries, Sattwik Mohanty too shared words of appreciation, “It’s a normal biological process. Pads are a necessity and thus, I believe, it must be tax-free. I support these girls from Gwalior.”
Utkarsh Jain, a student here, thinks if the government doesn’t lift GST from sanitary napkins, then at least, it should provide these free of cost in rural areas. A medical student, Arunima Gupta, also expressed her concern over the issue saying, “In this country, authorities fail to prioritize. They don’t realize that menstrual hygiene is a necessity and not luxury. Scores of women die because of sepsis, or toxic shock syndrome only because they cannot afford basic hygiene products and that’s a shame.”
Another student, Abhishek Parija, said, “Sanitary pads have a 12% GST slab on them, while sindoor and bindi have none, make of that what any literate may.”
Pointing out that the strategy used by the girls is unsuitable, activist Namrata Chadda said request for smaller manufacturing units of sanitary napkins would have been a better step. “They could have asked for small enterprises in rural areas to get eco-friendly pads made so they would be cheaper and more women can access them,” she said.
Dharitri Priyadarshini, a teacher, said that we live in a world where people do not seem to compromise. She said, “Instead of sending pads, seek more awareness on using alternatives. More importantly, teach women about self-defence. My country has dowry deaths, female infanticide, and highest rape and my women talk about pads, should I call it brave?”
Writer Rhiti Chatterjee Bose is of the opinion that there are better ways to protest, “I don’t think this is a great campaign. The money they are wasting by writing on 1000 sanitary pads could be given to an NGO to provide pads to girls and women who cannot afford them.”
City-based architect, Shweta Agarwal, believes the entire focus of the protest is wrong and said eco-friendly methods should instead be encouraged.