Whisper

Written by  //  October 26, 2010  //  Economic & Social Policy  //  4 Comments

Five years ago, Muruganandam of Pappanaickenpalayam noticed his wife going to the bathroom with a piece of cloth. When he asked her why, she said it was not of concern to men. Later, he asked her why she wouldn’t use sanitary napkins. She replied that if all the women of the family were to use sanitary napkins, there wouldn’t be enough of the family budget left for milk.

Muruganandam went on to dedicate the next four years to designing a machine to produce these napkins cheap. He set up a workshop in Kanuvai and was finally successful in designing a machine costing Rs. 65,000 as opposed to machines costing Rs. 3.5 crores used by the leading multinational brands. It is suited to smaller scale production and can be used by SHGs and local entrepreneurs to produce cheaper sanitary napkins and distribute them locally.

Refusing a blank cheque from a famous international company, Muruganandam went on to persuade women from his neighbourhood to form groups and help him distribute his product. He would take used samples to study, seeing which, his horrified mother left his house for his sister’s. Until the women of his community began to see the merit of his invention both as a means of income and as a cheaper product, Muruganandam was mostly seen as a pervert.

In November 2009, the government was finally forced to take notice. Government schemes have mostly ignored the issue of making sanitary napkins available of rural and urban poor –mostly because to make public policy on such an issue, one needs to first, talk about menstruation. While condom distribution has been made widespread –more because of the need for population control than a more open view to sex, menstruation is still a taboo subject.

With Muruganandam’s local initiative, the government has seen the need to subsidise sanitary napkins and to distribute them cheaply. The contract has apparently gone to an MNC rather than to Muruganandam who claims that if the government wishes to distribute his product, it won’t even need a subsidy. The scheme has been kept in wraps and no newspaper other than the Hindu has reported it.

Muruganandam has been awarded a National Award for his innovation but that, is little help for his mission.

This poem is based on Muruganandam’s invention and how the government has not given him the contract for cheap sanitary napkin disposal and its initial and stubborn tendency to keep quiet on the issue.

I

A useful thing

They came up with

But then they said

Whisper.

I’d like to scream

With joy and pain

But yet they said

All well to stay

Free, care free

But still they say

Whisper.

When they could sell

So much more

Why do they say

Whisper?

II

A fine young chap,

He made them cheap

And told them

Go to hell!

To the Government,

He said he’d sell

But they told him

Go to hell.

What! Should we talk!

They said in shock,

Such a private thing?

It isn’t right,

It’s bad manners-

Oh such a private thing!

III

She sits away

From the rest

And washes her

Linen.

She cannot work,

Or stay care free,

She cannot run

And laugh and dance.

It happens every month.

When she is mad,

Red hot with rage

And turned aside

So full of hate

Oh why should she whisper?

4 Comments on "Whisper"

  1. Vipul October 27, 2010 at 4:19 pm ·

    Ruchira, it’s interesting to see you celebrate the beauty of cost-cutting capitalistic innovation and the redundancy and counterproductivity of governmental interference and state subsidies.

  2. Ruchira October 27, 2010 at 4:47 pm ·

    Vipul, that’s not what I meant at all. I’d advocate government distribution of Muruganandam’s cheap sanitary napkins. Instead, it’s giving off the contract to some fancy MNC and subsidising their product for girls from BPL and poor though APL families.
    It’s a silly thing to do because
    a) it doesn’t need to subsidise sanitary napkins after Muruganandam’s invention and b) its scheme (forced out because of the social pressure for cheap sanitary napkin distribution since Muruganandam has made it possible) is targeted rather than universal and based on APL-BPL classification while the concept of the poverty line is in itself, so problematic and short sighted.

  3. Suhas January 6, 2011 at 7:36 am ·

    High financial and technical eligibility criteria in government bidding processes are often responsible for the government not recognizing innovation and new people and technologies.

    I m sure facebook, google and microsoft would have failed to make the cut with the GoI / one other government authoority when they were on to something. ‘same to same’ for sanitary napkins.

  4. SwarnaDeepika November 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm ·

    Ruchira…the poem is AWESOME!! Sharing this on my FB page!

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