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31 May 2017

Fresh push for tax-free sanitary napkins

Sushmita Dev
TT, New Delhi, May 30: Congress MP Sushmita Dev has once again stepped up her campaign for "TaxFreeWings", disappointed but not defeated by the government's refusal to exempt sanitary napkins from taxation under the goods and services tax regime.
Sushmita issued a statement today - through the All India Congress Committee platform - accusing the government of being "insensitive to the demand of half of India's population by not exempting the tax on sanitary napkins", thereby failing to make the GST "gender-sensitive".
Under the GST regime, to be rolled out from July 1, sanitary napkins will be taxed at 12 per cent. This is the rate at which it is now taxed across the country, except in a couple of states where it goes up to 14.5 per cent.
The GST council has, however, exempted bindis and bangles from taxes, a decision that has drawn the government a lot of flak.
Sushmita's statement comes amid reports that suggest Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi plans to meet finance minister Arun Jaitley to push for making sanitary napkins tax-free, a longstanding demand from women activists.
Maneka and her son, BJP MP Varun Gandhi, have in the past been supportive of Sushmita's campaign that drew over three lakh signatures online.
Sushmita says "menstrual hygiene is a challenge for the poor" and has been pressing for policy intervention to ensure last-mile delivery of the napkins, something the Kerala government has decided to do at least for schoolgirls from the academic session beginning next month.
The Congress MP has also argued that limited access to sanitary napkins - a monthly necessity for most women for nearly 39 years in their lifespan - is one of the reasons for a higher dropout rate among girls.
The government that runs the beti bachao, beti padhao (save and educate daughters) campaign, she added, had "actually missed the point".

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