Sunday, 20 August 2017

Roots


My closest friend from school days came home after many years and her immediate reaction was - " it feels so good to be back here in this house". Yes we spent a lot of time here - we shared secrets and joys, bounced from setbacks and failures, and we grew from young girls into young ladies. She is my constant - one who is there even when she is not. 

A few days later, as I was reading into the night, a friend sent a message - "Why are you up so late?" How did he know? I was puzzled! "Well, we were just driving past your building and saw that your lights were on. Please sleep." And peacefully sleep I did. I know for sure that just as he had looked out for me the day I had a severe migraine attack in college, he (actually now he and his wife) is still looking out for me. From a young lady to a woman, he has seen my journey. And its not my material or professional accomplishments that he is proud of, but he says he values the person that he sees in me. 

As I waited for mother and father in the foyer of the club, she called out and simultaneously caught hold of my hand. "This is you Tanushree! I have been thinking of you!"  I was stunned. She looked as young as she did as the Grade X class teacher. "Ma'am it's you. I have been wanting to meet you as well." A few minutes and a short conversation later she elicited a promise from me of a meeting in the first week of September. A promise I promise to keep. She not only taught me the science behind chemical reactions, but also what dignity means when surrounded by adverse actions. She may have been following my facebook activities but in all these years her silent blessings have been with me, of that today I am aware. From then to now she wants to see how the seed has groomed. I am anxious to pass the litmus test. 

Three people having three different histories with me walked through the garden of my life, all in one week, one after the other. While one is always present like the wind, another one is seasonal like the rain and yet another one is the occasional rainbow. Their associations maybe different but all three have contributed to me being who I am. And all three tell me that this is what home means. I may travel the world, but it is back here that I will find my true self. I may journey through enchanting forests, but it is here that I will find my reality. I may wish upon many a star, but it is here that I will find the strength to realise my dreams. Because this is where I started my journey. This is where my roots are. And this is where I will return to when the sun decides to set. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Needed - 12% Tax on Sanitary Napkins

When I put forth my thoughts on why a 12% tax on sanitary napkins and tampons is not discriminatory, I thought I was being logical and rationale. But then there were those who communicated their scepticism, their disbelief or simply a disagreement. Some of them are extremely intelligent and some are wonder women. And so I began to wonder if I could gather some numbers to highlight that a 0% tax on these products will probably not be sufficient to encourage their use. 

Based on Google research, facts and mathematics here is the data - 

Average cost of one sanitary napkin (SPC) = Rs 6.00
Cost without tax (0SPC) = Rs 5.36
Average number of pads used per month (#) = 17 (average of min 15 and max 20)
Total monthly cost of sanitary napkin use (SPC#) = Rs 102
Total monthly cost of tax free sanitary napkins (0SPC#) = Rs 91.12
Average income of a rural household for a family of 5 = Rs 5000. 

Assuming an equal split of the income for every member of the family, per rural woman we have Rs 1000 of monthly spend. For a monthly requirement of sanitary napkins the woman would thus need to shell out 9% -10% of her monthly income. That sounds unaffordable, especially when one considers that one kilogram staple food such as tomatoes or pulses could cost as much!

From an urban woman's stand point, a saving of Rs 10.88 every month represents 0.22% if she earns Rs 5000 monthly. 

So why shave tax off when it probably makes no difference to either set? Let me elucidate a bit more.

Notice that the tax of  Rs 10.88 can almost buy 2 sanitary napkins. The tax paid by 9 urban women can actually buy the monthly quota for one rural woman, but 2 sanitary napkins a month help neither one!

According to last census there were 106.916m women in the age bracket of 15-24 in India and 251.070m in 24-54. Rounding off, there are about 360m menstruating women in India. Of these 12%-20% use sanitary napkins. Tax collected on this sale could help an additional 4.8m - 7.8m women use sanitary napkins, which is 1% - 1.5% additional Indian female population!

Now we see things moving. 

If the government would contribute an equal amount to this we could have an additional 2% - 3% women having more hygienic facilities available. Corporate CSR and NGOs can help improve this number.

Schools are already being used as free distribution points, but girls get only 5 pads a month. So alternatively, with tax paid on sanitary napkins, we can now triple this grant and ensure they have enough for the entire month! When we inculcate awareness at a young age, we groom a healthier future with better prospects for national GDP.

The God or the devil, whichever be your pick, lies in the details. The numbers scream out for tax on sanitary napkins to be used to make this facility available for the ones who cannot afford it. That must become the endeavour of the urban, educated, sanitary napkin using women - to ensure that our government puts our money where the bloody need is!