The revolutionary movie “PadMan” has already had widespread tremors and it’s impacts can be felt along the length and breadth of the nation.Arunachalam Muruganantham would have never imagined that his invention would transcend geographical boundaries:from Tamil Nadu to Jammu Kashmir and now to Assam.Muruganantham was obsessed with making the perfect sanitary pad for his wife. The obsession led him to invent a low cost sanitary pad-making machine, earning him the title of social entrepreneur in the process.
The movie PadMan is an ideal portrayal of the much needed social change.It is based on the short story ‘The Sanitary Man of Sacred Land’ in Twinkle Khanna’s book The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, which is inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganantham, a social activist from Tamil Nadu who introduced low-cost sanitary pads.The film was released theatrically on 9 February 2018.
Assam, one of the eastern most state is now hit with the impacts of the film and the protagonist being Nayan Saikia(28),a newspaper article on Muruganantham inspired him. “Some laughed at me when I took a Rs 5 lakh loan and started a unit in my village. Today I do not earn much from my unit and depend on my shop to run the family. But I am happy to see more and more people appreciating our work,” Nayan, who still brings raw materials from Muruganantham’s company, said.His idea of social change has already brought him to media’s attending and is known today all across the state.
He left a lucrative job at an ITC owned-star category hotel in Bengaluru to create the much needed awareness among the poor rural women of Assam on menstrua hygiene and cleanliness.When he gave up his hotel job in 2005 to produce low cost sanitary pads for village girls and women,many in Gorihagi,his village in Biswanath Chariali district of Assam,laughed and mocked him at public places.They termed his act as a ‘stupid decision’.
But,now it has been 13 years since he and his wife Bagmita had started their journey.They have brought change in the lives of women in at least 110 villages in Biswanath Chariali,Nagaon, Lakhimpur and Tinisukia districts of Assam.The couple has also recently joined hands with the Assam State Rural Livelihood Mission(ASRLM) to train and engage women self help groups to make sanitary pads,a livelihood option.
Born to Dilip Saikia and Banti Saikia of Garehagi village here, Nayan was working in Bengaluru when he happened to go through an article in Time magazine on Muruganathan in 2015. Already having something like this in his mind, he met Muruganathan and disclosed what was going in his mind. Actually, Nayan could realize what the rural illiterate women had to face during their menstrual periods. Muruganathan assured him all possible help.Since then, he has been manufacturing napkins and now his industry produces around 3000 pieces everyday. Nayan Saikia sells his napkins through rural women at villages at a very cheap rate. Parallely, he has been creating awareness among the village women on cleanliness because he believes that cleanliness leads to a healthy life.
“As women self-help-groups play an important role in rural economy, we will not only try to train them how to produce sanitary pads, each costing Rs 3 against the market price of not less than Rs 6, but may also take up as another source of livelihood. Four to five women can set up a production unit in their villages with an initial investment of Rs 3.5 lakh. They can easily earn Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 on a daily basis. I am ready to supply raw materials and provide technical help,” Nayan said.Besides this, Nayan also sells organic and green tea at his shop prepared from his own tea garden.
Following his initiatives to promote menstrual hygiene and cleanliness the Assam state government with the aim to promote hygiene products made a significant announcement. Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has proposed that an annual stipend be provided to the girls belonging to families with income less than Rs 5 lakh, and between the age 12-20 years.The announcement for this proposal was made at the legislative assembly on the first day of the e-budget or digital budget that concluded recently.Nearly Rs 30 crore has been set aside for the scheme that aims to promote menstrual hygiene among girls by making sanitary napkins accessible and affordable. The government hopes that the initiative will help in improving the health of women across the state.
Suhail Mohammed is pursuing his graduation in English literature in the department of English, Aligarh Muslim University,Uttar Pradesh.He hails from Assam and can be reached at [email protected]