The Maharashtra government has informed the Bombay High Court that it has initiated “ASMITA” Yojana which undertakes Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) awareness in the state. The main objectives of Asmita Yojana are availability of quality and affordable sanitary napkins to women and adolescent girls across rural Maharashtra and livelihood opportunity for women SHGs through sale of sanitary napkins.
An affidavit was filed by the government in response to a public interest litigation filed by two law students – Nikita Gore and Vaishnavi Gholave – pointing out that the central and state government were not effectively implementing MHM resulting in women and particularly adolescent girls facing barriers.
The PIL, filed through advocate Vinod Sangvikar, seeks that the government be directed to declare sanitary napkins as an essential commodity and supply them at par with essential commodities to all poor and needy women amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Hemant Vasekar, chief executive officer of Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission, Rural Development Department, filed the affidavit stating that the Asmita scheme ensures access to quality and affordable sanitary napkins to girl students (11-19 years) of all Zilla Parishad schools and other women at a subsidised rate.
Besides, it is implemented through women Self Help Groups (SHG) which helps them earn income by selling the sanitary napkins.
The girl students can buy sanitary napkins at a cost of Rs 5 per pack. “Apart from these girls, women from rural areas are also benefitted from the scheme by being able to purchase sanitary napkins at Rs 24 per pack (pack of 8, extra-large size) through the network of women Self Help Groups (SHGs),” read the affidavit.
As of now total 50,6 11 women SHGs are registered under Asmita Scheme across 34 districts who have sold 43.20 lakh packets of sanitary’ napkins amounting to Rs 3.45 crore to rural women. Despite roadblocks during the pandemic, the affidavit states that more than 1 lakh of Asmita Plus sanitary napkins were supplied to various Not-For-Profits and Civil Societies to be distributed to women and adolescent girls in urban slums of Mumbai and other rural areas across Maharashtra.
“Women SHGs were able to do business worth Rs. 30 lakhs during March 2020 to July 2020… (this) shows that the State has effectively implemented the ASMITA Yojana during lockdown period as well,” it adds.
The government affidavit states that “vending machines were not installed in any of the villages under Asmita scheme”.
The PIL had claimed that the MHM is looked after by different ministries and therefore, there is lack of coordination amongst various departments.
Denying this claim, the government affidavit states that, “Coordination is being done at every level for the implementation of the Asmita scheme and for the success of the objective of the scheme.”
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