Over two months after the Centre slashed the price of sanitary napkins sold at its Jan Aushadhi Kendras from ₹2.5 per piece to ₹1, the demand for the product has increased five-fold in the country, leading to short supply.
In a massive push for menstrual hygiene, the Centre had on August 27 cut the price of the biodegradable sanitary napkins ‘Suvidha’ sold in packs of four. While the demand used to be three lakh packets a month, it rose to 16 lakh packets per month after the price drop. Nearly 25% of this demand arises from Karnataka.
Attracted by the subsidised cost, the kendras are getting orders in bulk from individuals as well as non-governmental organisations. While some are using it as a gifting option during celebrations, others are distributing the packs in slums and government schools.
“Two weeks ago, a parent from Udupi placed an order for 5,000 napkins at a Jan Aushadhi Kendra run by Sadhguru Souharda Sahakari Ltd. (SSSL) in Manipal. She wanted to distribute the napkins in a government school to mark her daughter’s birthday. Similarly, several NGOs and charitable trusts are also placing bulk orders for distribution in slums and government schools. We even got an order for one lakh napkins recently,” said a senior officer in charge of the 568 Jan Aushadhi Kendras in Karnataka.
Sachin Kumar Singh, chief executive officer of Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India, the implementing agency of Pradhan Mantri Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) under the Union government’s Department of Pharmaceuticals, told The Hindu last week that following the overwhelming response, manufacturers were finding it difficult to complete the orders.
“We had not anticipated such a massive response. Prior to the price slash, we had one manufacturer from whom we procured the product. We have now roped in two more and are meeting 80% of the demand. By December-end, we hope to meet the total demand,” he said.
Justifying sales in bulk to NGOs and charitable organisations, Mr. Singh said: “The bulk purchases are done for free distribution to the poor in slums and government schools. There is nothing wrong as long as the end purpose of menstrual hygiene is served. The product cannot be sold commercially by the bulk purchasers, as we have it in our branding.”
Meanwhile, ‘Suvidha’ napkin users have been hit following the short supply. Savita Malagond ( name changed ), who works in a garment shop in Vijayapura, has been unable to buy the product despite repeated visits to a kendra. According to her, none of the kendras in Vijayapura have stocks. “My monthly income is around ₹6,000 and I cannot afford to buy branded napkins,” she said.
Several store managers in the kendras said they have not been receiving stocks since about a month. “The demand is high and we used to sell over 100 pads every day. Customers have been regularly asking for the product,” a store manager said.
(With inputs from Firoz Rozindar, Vijayapura)