In this season of scams you will probably miss this. It may not appear as earthshaking as the Wikileaks or the Radia tape leaks, but it tells us how the corporates are using the official machinery for private commercial gains. In the name of public-private partnership, public services are planned to be used for the benefit of private companies.
Tata's can be accused of turning India into a banana republic, but Procter&Gamble has surely set a new trend. The multinational giant will now utilise the government machinery to sell its products, thereby opening up a marketing channel that the private companies had never thought of. Socialising the costs, and privatising the profits. Isn't this a remarkable marketing strategy?
It wouldn't surprise me if Pepsi and Coke, taking a cue from the precedence established by Procter&Gamble, enter into an agreement with the Rajasthan government to use the State official machinery (including school teachers) to sell cold drinks (at a commission) to quench the thirst of the people living in the semi-arid region of the Great Thar desert !!
It is well acknowledged that public-private partnership (PPP) in reality means that public resources are to be placed at the disposal of the private bodies. I see this happening everywhere, both nationally and internationally. With every passing day the real motive behind the PPP enterprise is becoming clearly visible, and is more blatant. With the weight of the United Nations, World Bank and the national government's behind them, business and industry is now becoming more daring.
Rajasthan's planned MoU with multinational giant Procter&Gamble is one such PPP initiative, and beats all records. Drawing from the success of a pilot project running in four districts -- Jaipur, Donsa, Tonk and Sikar -- Rajasthan government is likely to extend this project to the entire State (Rajasthan is the largest State in India).
As per a Jaipur dateline news report appearing the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar (Dec 14, 2010), services of more than 46,000 workers of the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) programme under the National Rural Health Mission will now be used for selling sanitary napkins manufactured by Procter&Gamble. Each packet sold will bring in a commission of Re 1 for the ASHA workers.
Well, of course, this is being done with a pious incentive. More the sale of sanitary napkins means more the protection for the rural women. Each packet costing Rs 7 contains four napkins. If you are street smart and sell 30 napkins, you get an incentive of Rs 50. I am sure the poorly paid ASHA workers must be desperately looking forward to augment their income.
"An ASHA worker gets only Rs 950 per month and has to deliver basic health services and awareness to a large number of rural population. The government appreciates our work but provides less incentive," a worker was quoted as saying in an earlier report in The Times of India. On an average, an ASHA worker receives Rs 450 from the Centre while an additional Rs 500 is provided by the state government.
This is less than what the daily-wage MGNREGA workers can earn in a month.
No wonder, in July 2010, when thousands of ASHA workers had confronted the visiting Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, he announced that the Centre will soon bring two new programmes that will provide the workers with additional incentives. Among the programmes he talked about, he specifically mentioned about marketing of asha sahyogini kit (carrying the sanitary napkins).
According to a news report in The Times of India (July 18, 2010): "To promote hygiene awareness among the rural teens, Asha workers will be involved in social marketing of sanitary pads. The government will provide these low-cost sanitary pads at subsidized rates for rural girls aged between 10 and 19 years.
They will also promote the government schemes on family planning.
The new programme was announced by Azad. While addressing the health workers, the minister said that the workers will be provided with incentives to promote the use of these family planning and hygiene products."
Don't be surprised if your postman too starts delivering sanitary napkins. In the age of market economy, Kuchh bhi ho sakta hai