The High Court of Karnataka has directed the State government “to implement in letter and spirit” the ‘Shuchi’ scheme, a menstrual hygiene project of distributing sanitary napkins to around 17 lakh beneficiary adolescent girls, for the year 2021-22.
The court issued the direction while noting that the scheme was not implemented in 2019-20 and 2020-21 as the procurement of sanitary napkins to be distributed to adolescent girls was not done on account of financial constraints.
“In our view, the provision of separate toilets for adolescent girls in schools and that of [providing] sanitary napkins to such girls on a regular basis are all instances of not only empowerment of the girl child, but also implementation of the fundamental right under Article 21A of the Constitution insofar as girls aged between six to 14 are concerned,” observed a Division Bench comprising Justice B.V. Nagarathna and Justice J.M. Khazi.
The Bench was hearing a PIL petition, filed in 2018 by the city-based Anti-Corruption Council of India, through which the court is monitoring infrastructure in schools, health check-up of children, and the implementation of the ‘Shuchi’ scheme in schools.
“While we appreciate the State for envisaging such a scheme, it is necessary to emphasise that it should be implemented in its true letter and spirit,” the Bench observed.
Nod for procurement
Earlier, the government counsel told the court that this month, administrative approval would be sought and within 90 days thereafter, around 2.04 crore sanitary napkins would be procured.
In the event schools are closed, there will be community-based door-to-door distribution through health workers, but if the schools reopen the distribution of the hygiene products shall be done at the schools themselves, the counsel told the court.
The State government’s ‘Shuchi’ scheme covers adolescent girls in the age group of 10 to 19. The government told the Bench that a budgetary estimate of ₹47 crore has been made for the procurement of these hygiene products this year.
In rural areas
The Bench pointed out that proper implementation of the ‘Shuchi’ scheme would help empower adolescent girls, particularly those residing in rural and remote areas who travel to the taluk and district headquarters for education. They usually miss attendance on certain days of the month during menstruation on account of not having these hygiene products.