Leading and well-connected railway stations, take note! Bhopal has just become a trendsetter!
Considering the needs of its women commuters, Bhopal Junction has become the first railway station in India to install a sanitary napkin vending machine.
While it is common to see most railway stations equipped with ticket counters, passenger helpdesks, toilets, refreshment stalls and waiting rooms, Bhopal has made yet another necessity available for its women commuters by making low-cost sanitary napkins available at the railway station.
At a meagre price of Rs 5, any railway passenger can procure two sanitary napkins from the vending machine.
Ushering in 2018, the Railway Women Welfare Association of Bhopal installed the machine and christened it ‘Happy Nari.’ With railway officials in attendance, the senior-most class-four worker at the station, Anjali Thanku, inaugurated the vending machine on January 1, 2018.
‘Happy Nari’ has a capacity of 75 sanitary pads. The response from the very first day has been exceptional. Over 500 napkins were provided by a local NGO Arushi on the first day itself. And within a short span of 8-9 hours, over 600 napkins were dispensed from the vending machine.
The total cost of setting up the machine, employing monitoring staff and sanitary napkins was only Rs. 20,000.
Speaking to NDTV, Bhopal’s Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Shobhan Chaudhri lauded the move. “The vending machine is a very noble effort taken to ease the travelling experience for women. Considering the minimal price of the napkins even the lower sections of the society can use them,” he said.
Apart from railway commuters, many people from surrounding slums came to avail of the installed equipment.
NGOs are now training women railway staffers to maintain and refill the machines regularly.
The immediate plan of action on their list next is to set up a sanitary napkin incinerator in the women’s waiting room toilet to allow women to dispose of their menstrual waste. The system is expected to be in place by the end of January.
Taking into consideration the success of the vending machine, the Bhopal Railway authorities are planning to install more sanitary pad manufacturing machines across Madhya Pradesh.
The aim to get more local sanitary napkin manufacturing associations and NGOs on board to provide low-cost pads. The authorities may also approach companies and organisation to invest in setting up these vending machines through CSR funding.