New Delhi: Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar has claimed that he approached a minister of the Modi government with a sanitary napkin during the shoot of his film Pad Man but the minister refused to hold it.
Although Kumar refrained from naming the minister, he said that menstrual hygiene fell under his ambit.
“This is how bad the state of society is,” Kumar said Saturday at the launch of a book on Swachh Bharat Mission, the Modi government’s flagship scheme to encourage hygiene and sanitation, in New Delhi. “I asked the minister to hold the pad, but he refused. Even now, a lot more needs to be done.”
Released in 2018, Pad Man is the story of Coimbatore social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham, who devised a machine to manufacture low-cost pads. Ahead of its release, a viral social media campaign saw several celebrities pose with sanitary napkins to diffuse the stigma around menstruation.
Kumar’s remarks came at the launch of ‘The Swachh Bharat Revolution: Four Pillars of India’s Behavioural Transformation’, a book of essays on Swachh Bharat that is edited by Parameswaran Iyer, a secretary in the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
The Bollywood star was part of a panel discussion alongside Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, UNICEF’s Yasmin Ali Haque, and Iyer.
He went on to request Shekhawat to help change this kind of approach, especially within the government, but the minister said this was something Kumar was better equipped to do.
“This kind of societal change can’t be done by the government,” said Shekhawat. “Such social taboos can only be overcome with the help of influencers like you.”
He said that, at this point in time, it is the people who run the government, not the other way around. “It is the people’s will that prevails in India,” he added.
‘Most successful initiative’
Kant said Swachh Bharat Mission had been the government’s most successful initiative.
“India will be 100 per cent defecation free by 2019 as PM Modi said,” Kant added. “No programme can succeed without community participation and Swachh Bharat managed to capture the imagination.”
Kant also urged private participation to make the initiative more successful, especially at the end stage of sludge management.
Shekhawat said the behavioural changes encouraged by Swachh Bharat began within the government.
“What we needed first were behavioural changes in the government, in the bureaucracy,” said Shekhawat. “That change, which began in 2014, has brought us here.”
The comments come barely days after two Dalit children were beaten to death in an MP village, allegedly declared “open defecation free” (a stated objective of the Swachh Bharat Mission), for defecating near the house of an OBC family.