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No budget for free sanitary pads as Karnataka govt wants to ‘save funds’ for Covid fight

Karnataka govt didn't allocate funds for Shuchi scheme in March as it wanted to streamline its budget to 'save funds' to fight the Covid-19 outbreak, say officials.

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Bengaluru: The Karnataka government has not allocated funds for Shuchi scheme this year, bringing to a halt the distribution of sanitary napkins for lakhs of adolescent girls studying in the state’s schools and colleges, mainly in rural areas.

Launched in 2013 by the Centre, the scheme aims to take free sanitary napkins to all adolescent girls upto the age of 21. Nearly 17 lakh girls benefit from the scheme, government officials said.

Under the scheme, stocks of pads for funds for them would reach government schools and colleges at designated dates. During holidays, it used to be the teachers’ responsibility to deliver the sanitary pads to the beneficiary students’ homes — in the manner the government continued its mid-day meal scheme during the pandemic, delivering monthly ration to the students at their homes.

No funds for Shuchi scheme in the budget for this financial year are depriving the girls of the vital menstrual hygiene product.

On the non-allocation of funds, a state health department official told ThePrint that the government in March was preparing to deal with the pandemic, and, therefore, streamlined its budget to “save funds” to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

The state budget was presented by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on 5 March, around a week before the state and the country recorded its first death due to Covid-19.  

Admitting that the scheme has come to a halt, Health Director Om Prakash Patil said though funds for the scheme were not approved in the budget, the matter has been brought to the notice of the government.

“We have moved the papers with the government (last week) and we have sought budgetary allocation so that young girls can continue to benefit from it. We have brought it to the notice of the government and hope to resume it soon,” Patil told ThePrint.

Every year, the state government used to allocate Rs 49 crore for the scheme that aims to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene among girls in rural areas.

The scheme was initially a central government-sponsored project, titled ‘Kishori Shakti Yojana’, functioning under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. However, in 2015, the state governments were given the responsibility to look after the implementation of the scheme.

Also read: India’s workplaces need to understand menstruation better. Period

Scheme helped in maintaining period hygiene

V.S. Radhika, who heads a government-run school in Bengaluru, told ThePrint that many of the young girls who have attained puberty would earlier not come to class as they would be writhing in period pain, or feeling weak. Their families would force them to stay home when menstruating, she added.

“We had girls still using cloth as their families forced them to. We have been advising parents to open up their minds and give their girls a hygienic life,” Radhika said.  

“We ask adolescent girls to eat well and keep themselves hydrated during their periods. The Shuchi scheme has helped in maintaining hygiene. But we face shortage of pads very often,” she added.

H.K. Manjunath, president, High School Assistant Masters Association, told ThePrint they have been receiving ‘Shuchi Kits’ for adolescent girls for the past few years and would appeal to the government to allocate funds to continue the scheme.

“The pandemic delayed the academic year. But if there is no allocation of funds, we would like to appeal to the government to do so as it helps close to 4-5 lakh girls who are in government high schools itself. It helps in maintaining hygiene and has been appreciated by the students,” Manjunath added. 

Many schools didn’t get pads in last few years too

Besides fund allocation, the scheme has been facing logistics issues for the past few years — lack of water and soaps in schools to wash hands, absence of paper bags in toilets to dispose of napkins, among others, for example.

An official of the Reproductive and Child Health Department of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike confirmed to ThePrint that many schools did not receive sanitary napkins in the last two to three years due to distribution issues.

“Several government schools have not been able to benefit from this scheme as many educational institutions don’t know how to collect the stock from the distributors,” said the official, who didn’t want to be named.

“Bollywood movie Padman has increased awareness among young girls about the need for menstrual hygiene. But a lot more needs to be done to ensure it reaches all adolescent girls,” the officer added.

Also read: ‘Padman’ has started a welcome conversation about periods, but don’t ignore the bad news


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