Editorial 1 : Women in red: On an optimum menstrual hygiene policy

Context: A menstrual hygiene policy should provide a range of services


  • Only in an ‘unseeing’ world would the judiciary need to set the government a deadline to do the obvious. The Supreme Court of India gave the Centre four weeks to finalise an optimum menstrual hygiene policy with focus on the distribution of sanitary napkins.

Directions by the Chief Justice of India

  • The Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud, further directed the government to set down a national model for the number of girls toilets per female population across government-aided and residential schools in the country.

India and Menstrual hygiene

  • Menstruation is the reality for women of a particular age demographic, naturally involving a substantial percentage of half the population in the country.
  • It is only now, over three quarters of a century after Independence, that India has come closest to even drawing up a menstrual hygiene policy.
  • While advancements over the years, and expanding urbanisation, have brought menstrual hygiene products within reach of a larger group of young women, affordability is still an issue; access hurdles stand in the way of a wide swathe of women in semi-urban and rural areas.

Effects of poor Menstrual health

  • Poor menstrual health can affect school attendance, performance, and retention of girls and transgender students due to lack of facilities, products, information, and support.
  • It can lead to infections, irritation, dermatitis, alteration in pH balance, and increased risk of cervical cancer.
  • This has an effect on the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women, girl students drop out of school, are pushed into child marriage, and are more like to experience domestic violence, infections, reproductive illnesses, malnourishment, and poor mental health. 
  • It can affect the productivity, income, and career opportunities of women.
Important data points and findings from National Family Health Survey-5As per the latest National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS), 73% of rural women and 90% of urban women use a hygienic method of menstrual protection.There was a significant improvement in the percentage of women aged 15-24 who use a hygienic method of protection during their menstrual cycle, this rose from 58% in NFHS-4 to 78% in NFHS-5, primarily sanitary napkins, cloth and locally prepared napkins.The survey also revealed the close link between education and preference for hygiene — women who have received 12 or more years of schooling are more than twice as likely to use a hygienic method compared to those with no schooling.An irrefutable link has been established between menstruation and dropping out of school, because of stigma, and patchy or no access to sanitation (in terms of access to products, toilets and water).

Way forward

  • policy is only half a revolution; to complete the circle, it is crucial the government ensures access to affordable menstrual hygiene products for all menstruating girls, but also clean toilets and water wherever the women may need them.
  • Besides, the policy should also cater to the entire lifecycle of menstruation, providing for the entire range of health and social sequelae that result from it. The government must see, cognise, and commit to serve India’s women.

Editorial 2 : Chip off the blocks: On semiconductor fabrication in India

Context: As incentives for semiconductors sputter, course corrections are due


  • As funds for production-linked incentives (PLI) for manufacturing semiconductors lie under-utilised by upwards of 80%, the Union government must be far clearer on what it has achieved — and aims to accomplish — by continuing to spend crores of rupees on bringing more semiconductor fabrication capabilities to India.

Semiconductor chips

  • These are the materials which have a conductivity between conductors and insulators. They can be pure elements, silicon or germanium or compounds, gallium, arsenide or cadmium selenide.
  • They are essential to almost all sectors of the economy including aerospace, automobiles, communications, clean energy, information technology and medical devices etc.
  • These chips are the basic building blocks that serve as the heart and brain of all modern electronics and information and communications technology products.
  • India has become the hub for semiconductor design with nearly 2,000 chips being designed per year and more than 20, 000 engineers working in various aspects of chip design and verification.
India’s semiconductor missionIndia Semiconductor Mission (ISM) has been setup as an Independent Business Division within Digital India Corporation.ISM has all the administrative and financial powers and is tasked with the responsibility of catalysing the India Semiconductor ecosystem in manufacturing, packaging and design.ISM has an advisory board consisting of some of the leading global experts in the field of semiconductors.ISM is serving as the nodal agency for efficient, coherent and smooth implementation of the programme for development of semiconductor and manufacturing ecosystem in India.

Existing schemes and domestic implications

  • While the PLI scheme for IT hardware has a ₹17,000 crore outlay, the one for semiconductors and displays has ₹38,601 crore earmarked. On the employment and substantive value addition fronts, existing schemes in and of themselves show little promise: while chips are important for most hardware and appliances, making them employs advanced and automated systems, and manufacturing facilities employ few people for the value generated in sales.
  • Not all big-ticket spending in the national interest translates into domestic employment, as import-heavy defence spending shows. But the central wager with these schemes, at much cost to the exchequer, lies in attracting an “ecosystem” that will increase the value addition of India’s electronics manufacturing sector.
  • This is far from a guaranteed outcome, even if PLI benefits are availed optimally. The wager also relies on global manufacturing giants giving other benefits of a globally distributed supply chain a go-by, including cheap and accessible international transport facilities for chips.

Need of other incentives

  • The constellation of PLI schemes must be bolstered by other efforts to strengthen India’s hand — encouraging semiconductor design talent to develop domestically. Some efforts here, such as the design-linked incentive scheme, show promise.
  • But the bulk of the capital remains focused on the assembly and subsidising of large manufacturing plants, with much of the raw and even intermediate material still being imported.
  • And with the limited scope of what the PLI funds are incentivising, multinational chipmakers are staying away from making substantive commitments, despite incentives. Private capital is also in a state of flux, with advancements in chips and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence leaving policymakers guessing on how best to allocate resources to boost their technological position for the coming decade.

Issues faced

  • And with the limited scope of what the PLI funds are incentivising, multinational chipmakers are staying away from making substantive commitments, despite incentives. Private capital is also in a state of flux, with advancements in chips and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence leaving policymakers guessing on how best to allocate resources to boost their technological position for the coming decade.
  • India still lags in the establishment of semiconductor wafer fabrication (FAB) units due to a weak ecosystem and shortage of resources as compared to more competitive bases like China and Vietnam.

What needs to be done?

  • These outlays must, therefore, be pegged to a tangible outcome: is this a matter of safeguarding cyber sovereignty to protect India from another pandemic-style supply chain shock, encouraging the domestic electronics industry to make electronics cheaper for Indian consumers, or asserting India as a global electronics manufacturing centre? Clarity on desired outcomes would make failures easier to spot. It would also make it possible to course correct before massive PLI spending has already taken place with little to show for the outflow.