Mumbai Observing that lack of easy access to sanitary napkins was an important issue affecting almost half of our population, the Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday asked Maharashtra government to consider making sanitary napkins available at concessional rates to needy women. A division bench of justice Naresh Patil and justice Nitin Sambre also sought to know from the state what steps it has taken to create awareness about use of sanitary napkins, especially amongst rural women. The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by a non-governmental organization, Shetty Women’s Welfare Foundation, raising the issue of non-availability of sanitary napkins to about 88% women owing to lack of awareness and high price of the product. The PIL also challenged the Centre’s 12% goods and service tax on sanitary napkins. “This is an important issue and it affects half the population,” said the bench during course of hearing on the PIL, seeking to know from the government what the administration has done to spread awareness.“The state also needs to consider cutting down the cost of these napkins or make them available at concessional rates,” said the bench.It said to increasing accessibility of sanitary napkins, the government can apply price control mechanism employed in case of essential drugs. The court was told by the lawyers of the petitioner body that the state government has taken initiative to provide sanitary napkins at concessional rates in eight districts in Maharashtra and the project was being implemented through a non-government organisation. The project, according to the petitioner body, was being implemented primarily in tribal districts and was required to be replicated in other districts as well. The court has now posted the PIL for further hearing after two weeks after directing the principal secretaries of the departments concerned to discuss the issue and suggest a mechanism to increase awareness about use of sanitary napkins and also make the product available at concessional rates. As regards the plea of the petitioner body to exempt sanitary napkins from payment of GST, the court has asked additional solicitor general Anil Singh to assist it, as it is a central issue and is likely to be considered by the court on the next date of hearing.