There has been much upheaval since the GST came into effect on July 1. Especially over the 12% tax on sanitary napkins, a major chunk of people are making a case that it is an essential commodity rather a ‘luxury’ item. Thus the argument is that it shouldn’t have such high taxes. Supporting the same line of reasoning, the Assam state committee of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) held a protest at Dighali Pukhuri, Guwahati on Thursday. A group of around 50 student activists along with placards with sanitary pads pasted on them, raised the slogan ‘Bleed without fear, Bleed without tax’, and demanded the immediate removal of the tax imposed on the pads. Post the protest, the protestors posted those sanitary pads off to Arun Jaitley’s address who is the present Finance Minister and the Minister of Defence and the Corporate Affairs.
This protest was a part of the SFI’s awareness campaign that was carried on from the 11th to the 14th of this month across the nation. The demands included – one, the immediate withdrawal of the imposed taxation on sanitary napkins making it a tax-free commodity; two, proper hygienic and sanitation facilities for women, including sanitary pads vending machines at every educational institutions and three, providing with six pads packet for Re 1 to the BPL families.
‘Sanitary pads are rudimentary for women. It is an essential necessity for maintaining hygiene and a healthy life. Diseases such as reproductive tract infection and cervical cancer are rising and a high tax imposition of pads will only push more and women towards it,’ said the Kamrup District Secretary of SFI’s Assam state committee, Sangita Das. She further adds, ‘It is not that we are against the tax system or this government in particular but making items like sindoor, bangles and condoms tax-free but sanitary pads and other feminine products of daily use, shows the dogma and patriarchy prevailing in our society and the government’s attitude towards it.’
On the other hand, officials at the GST Council have been backing up the decision by the Government saying that the 12% rate is if not a bit lower than at par with the previous tax burden which included central and state taxes. According to the council, this decision will only do good to the local manufacturers and steer clear of the huge discrepancy between the taxes on intermediate goods and those on the finished products, thus keeping the new tax rate at either the same level or below the earlier one.
The protest on Thursday had both boys and girls participating from all the major colleges of the city. While many of these students had the support from their families, some didn’t but what infuriate them all the more are the commentaries and expressions of the common passer bys during the protest.
Well, it has been two weeks and as of now, there are no figures to indicate how much a packet of sanitary napkins will cost once the GST is implemented.
Words- Prithesh Gupta