The Shivalli unit barely reaches half its target number

The Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Ministry's ambitious project of distributing sanitary pads free of cost to students in rural areas, and at a reasonable price to rural women, has been hit hard due to power crisis.

Under the scheme, sanitary pad manufacturing units were set up by the zilla panchayats in association with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and self-help groups (SHG). However, one of these units was struggling to meet the production target due to uncertain power supply.

Of the two such units in Belur and Shivalli here, the Belur unit is functioning well as it is located near the industrial areas and is receiving uninterrupted power supply from the express power transmission line. The Shivalli unit, however, has been hit hard as the production level has come down by 50 per cent.

While the Belur unit manufactures 600 sanitary pads a day, the Shivalli unit produces only 200 to 300. This has also led to the unit losing a large sum of incentive from the Government. The SHG in Shivalli received only Rs. 15,000 against the Rs. 31,000 earned by the Belur unit.

Bigger issue

In Shivalli, 10 women work in a 20-year-old, 12x10-foot building where five machines are installed. Lack of space affects the defibration and sterilisation processes and there is no proper arrangement to stock the end product. Erratic power supply, however, is a bigger problem for the women here. “All of us come to work after finishing our household chores. Power is available hardly for six hours and the unscheduled power cuts do not permit us to work as per our schedule,” said Meharunnisa Mulla, head of an SHG.

No generator

They asked for a generator, but the demand was not considered by the ZP authorities citing high cost of fuel. “Providing generator is not feasible keeping in mind the fuel prices. It will reduce the profit margin and income of SHG members. They may gradually lose interest in running the unit,” said C. Shikha, Chief Executive Officer of the zilla panchayat.

The panchayat is contemplating various options, including replacing the electric machines with manual ones.

Multiple units

Ms. Shikha said that instead of the earlier plan to set up a unit in each taluk, the zilla panchayat was contemplating having multiple units in places such as Belur to tackle the power problem. Having units in villages closer to the industrial areas may help maintain work efficiency. The ZP had planned one more unit for Hubli, which is likely to be set up at Tarihal or a place nearby, she said.

  • Units were set as part of a Government scheme to provide free pads to girls in rural areas
  • Demand for generator was not considered because of high cost of fuel