Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Friday told the Bombay High Court that it distributed around one lakh sanitary napkins to women and adolescent girls across the state during the lockdown period at minimal rates. The state further highlighted its Asmita scheme, which is solely meant for providing sanitary pads at cheaper rates to girls and women in the state.
The state through R Vimla, the chief executive officer, Maharashtra State Rural Livelihoods Mission (MSRLM) filed an affidavit before the bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Sarang Kotwal, which is seized with a PIL filed by two law students.
The students through advocate Vinod Sangvikar have sought directions to the state authorities to provide sanitary pads to women at cheaper rates.
The petition alleged that the government did not provide sanitary pads to women for free or subsidised rates, during the lockdown, especially in remote areas.
Trashing the contention, Vimla stated that the scheme was hit in March 2020 as its technical support from banking partner was discontinued by Yes Bank, however, it was back on track after the state roped in Bank of Baroda.
"Even during the lockdown, Asmita Yojana continued to function offline. More than 1,00,000 packets of Asmita Plus sanitary napkins have been supplied to various NGOs and Civil Societies to be distributed to women and adolescent girls in urban slums of Mumbai and other rural areas across Maharashtra. The prime objective was to meet the demand for essential goods - sanitary napkins and also ensure a livelihood for women self help groups, during the lockdown," the affidavit reads.
According to the affidavit, Asmita Yojana was initiated in 2018 in Maharashtra to ensure access to quality and affordable sanitary napkins to women and adolescent girls in rural areas through the network of women Self Help Groups (SHGs).
As per this scheme, a pack of 8 napkins is made available to girl students (11-19 years) of all Zilla Parishad schools at a cost of Rs five while the subsidy of Rs15 is paid by Rural Development Department. Apart from girls, women from rural areas are also benefitted from the scheme by being able to purchase sanitary napkins at Rs. 24 per pack of 8 pads, the state claimed.
The government further claimed that the fund for this scheme is made available through sponsors. The fund, the state claimed, is also used to supply such pads at 100 per cent subsidy to girls living in Bal Gruhas across Maharashtra.
"Till July 29, a total of 29,875 women from self help groups have been selling pads and around 55,000 school going girls have purchased the Rs 5 per packet pad," the affidavit claimed, adding, "More than 1.36 crore Asmita pads have been sold across Maharashtra to women and adolescent girls till date."