To contain the spread of COVID-19, the country went into a 21-day lockdown on 25 March from midnight to 14 April. To ease the ordeal for the citizens, the central and state governments allowed uninterrupted availability and supply of essential goods. However, there was no clarity on whether sanitary napkins were to be considered "essential" commodities or not. According to a tweet by Smriti Irani on March 29, sanitary pads have now been listed as an essential commodity. She tweeted, “Taking note of the growing concern regarding the availability of sanitary napkins, Home Secretary to Government of India has issued a clarification to Chief Secretaries of all the states regarding Sanitary Pads being an essential commodity.”
- The Home Secretary to India issued a clarification stating that the sanitary napkins are essential commodities that should be supplied in the COVID-19 lockdown without interruptions.
- He wrote a letter to Chief Secretaries of State to inform about the changes in the lockdown measures.
- Earlier, it was not clear whether sanitary napkins are being counted as an essential commodity or not.
- Smriti Irani took to Twitter to inform about its inclusion. The decision has been appreciated by many on Twitter.
According to the changes, added as addendums, sanitary napkins have been included as an essential commodity and all the legal hurdles in its manufacture and supply has been removed.
Supply interrupted; shops out of stock
As the country went into lockdown, the central government invoked the Disaster Management Act 2005 and issued an official order about the measures to be taken by the central and state governments of India. The notice allowed the supply and availability of all the essential commodities to avoid hoarding and panic. Essential Commodity Act of 1955 ensures the availability of all the essential goods to the consumers at a fair price, including food and medical items like edible oil and seeds, vanaspati, pulses, rice, sugarcane, and its products; petroleum and petroleum products; jute and textile; seeds of fruits and vegetables; drugs and fertilizers. There is no clear mention of sanitary napkins which is a basic requirement for maintaining period hygiene.
This created a lack of clarity on whether sanitary napkins are essential goods and should be manufactured and supplied during the COVID-19 lockdown. The chemists, grocery outlets and the online shopping websites that sell sanitary napkins were running out of stock. But, the suppliers and manufactures of sanitary napkins were not permitted by the state and local authorities to function as they were not included under “essential goods”, as reported by Business Wire India
Taking note of the growing concern regarding the availability of sanitary napkins, Home Secretary to Government of India has issued a clarification to Chief Secretaries of all the states regarding Sanitary Pads being an essential commodity. - Smriti Irani
Sanitary napkins now an essential commodity
However, on March 29, the Home Secretary to India, Ajay Bhalla, added changes to the COVID-19 lockdown measures to be taken by the Ministries and Departments of Government of India, State and Union Territories that was released on March 24. According to the changes, added as addendums, sanitary napkins have been included as an essential commodity and all the legal hurdles in its manufacture and supply has been removed. Furthermore, all the essential and the non-essential goods will now be manufactured and supplied without any restrictions.
The change was relayed through a letter from the Home Secretary addressed to the Chief Secretaries of all the states. In the letter, as shared by Smriti Irani, it has been clarified that groceries include hygiene products such as handwashes, soaps, disinfectants, body wash, shampoos, detergents, surface cleaners, tissue papers, toothpaste/oral care, sanitary pads and diapers, battery cells, chargers etc.
Telangana and Karnataka government had listed sanitary napkins as an essential commodity on 25 March, thus allowing its uninterrupted supply and sale. A similar move from the central government was necessary to allow women access to basic hygiene amidst this crisis.