Thousands of sanitary pads meant to be distributed among women by the accredited social health (ASHA) workers were found thrown near the garbage dump at the civil hospital here. The manufacturing date on the packets is 2012 and the date of expiry is 2015.
Health authorities were supposed to distribute the lot between this period. The napkins ‘Freedays’ are sent by the Union government to the district hospitals for distribution among adolescent girls aged between 10 and 19 and women at a subsidised rate to promote menstrual hygiene. According to doctors working in rural areas, women use rags and even pieces of gunny bags during menstruation, which is very unhygienic and can lead to many health problems.
The scheme was initiated in Punjab in 2010 under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) now known as the National Health Mission (NHM).
It seems that ASHA workers of the district failed to distribute the napkins among the targeted group and the authorities of the district hospital decided to throw them. However, some women from the downtrodden section and nearby villages were seen collecting the pads. When asked that why they were picking them, they said that they can’t afford to buy pads and these were lying there unattended. A resident of Multania said that no one ever came to her village and told them about the sanitary pads available at a subsidised rate. There are more than 1,000 ASHA workers in the district.
Dr Raghubir Singh Randhwa, civil surgeon, Bathinda, said that these were expired pads and meant to be returned. When asked why the health department failed to distribute them it in the first place, Randhwa said that he joined in 2016 and will look into the matter. He accepted that it is carelessness on the part of health authorities.
As per the guidelines of the National Health Mission, the procurement of sanitary napkins, whether through Central supply by the Union government, or through SHGs, has to be done at a fixed price of Rs 7.5 per pack of six sanitary napkins. These will be given at subsidised rates through auxiliary nurses and midwives, ASHA workers and the anganwadi staff. The workers were trained to sensitise them about the benefits of using napkins and to make them educate village girls about healthy menstrual practices. The sanitary napkins are provided under the NHM’s brand, ‘Freedays’. These napkins are being sold to adolescent girls at a rate of Rs 6 per pack of six napkins by health activists. Out of the sale proceeds, an health activist gets an incentive of Rs 1 per pack, besides a free pack of napkins per month and the balance Rs 5 is to be deposited in the state or district treasury.