Asian Law College – which is a part of Asian Education Group and is ranked as one of the best Law Colleges in Delhi NCR – welcomed its new batch of B.A.LL.B. & LL.B. students by putting together an impressive week-long Orientation Programme scheduled from Monday, 26th October 2020 to Saturday, 31st October 2020. However, in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and keeping in mind the social distancing norms, this programme was organized virtually to benefit the students who have embarked upon a new phase in their academic life.
At the ALC Orientation 2020, Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham – THE REAL PAD MAN OF INDIA – was an Eminent Guest who delivered a powerful LLS Lecture session on Thursday, 29th October 2020 as part of the week-long Asian Law College B.A.LL.B. & LL.B. Orientation Programme 2020.
Born on 7th January 1961, Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham is a social entrepreneur from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, India. He is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad making machine and is credited for innovating grassroots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India. His mini-machines, which can manufacture sanitary pads for less than a third of the cost of commercial pads, have been installed in 23 of the 29 states of India. He is currently planning to expand the production of these machines to 106 nations. The movie ‘Period. End of Sentence.’ won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) for the year 2018. The 2018 Hindi film ‘Pad Man’ was made on his invention starring Akshay Kumar as him. In 2014, he was included in Time magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. In 2016, he was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India.
In his LLS Lecture delivered on Thursday, 29th October 2020 at Asian Law College as part of the week-long ALC B.A.LL.B. & LL.B. Orientation Programme 2020, Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham narrated his amazing story of trial and tribulations in trying to find a solution to tackle the huge problem of traditional unhygienic practices woven around the tabooed subject of menstruation in rural India. He said, “I’m not a famous sportsperson or a film star. People know me for what I did. I only tried to help my wife and sister. You got to first change your family to change the world!”
Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham began his story from his birth in a family of hand-loom weavers in Coimbatore, India. He described how he grew up in poverty after his father died in a road accident and how his mother worked as a farm laborer to help in his studies. However, at the age of 14, he dropped out of school. He supplied food to factory workers and took up various jobs as a machine tool operator, yam-selling agent, farm laborer, and welder, to support his family.
In 1998, he got married to Ms. Shanthi. Shortly after, Mr. Muruganantham discovered his wife collecting filthy rags and newspapers to use during her menstrual cycle, as sanitary napkins made by multinational corporations, were expensive. Troubled by this, he started designing experimental pads. Initially, he made pads out of cotton, but these were rejected by his wife and sisters. Eventually, they stopped co-operating with him and refused to be the test subjects for his innovations. He realized that the raw materials cost ₹10 (14¢ US), but the end product sold for 40 times that price. And, he decided why not make an affordable pad? He looked for female volunteers who could test his inventions, but most were too shy to discuss their menstrual issues with him. He started testing it on himself, using a bladder with animal blood but became the subject of ridicule when the “sanitary pad” was discovered in his village. As menstruation was a taboo subject in India, it left him ostracized by his community and family. He distributed his products free to girls in a local medical college, hoping that they would give him feedback.
It took him two years to discover that the commercial pads used cellulose fibers derived from pine bark wood pulp. The fibers helped the pads absorb while retaining shape. Imported machines that made the pads cost ₹35 million (US$490,000). So, he devised a low-cost machine that could be operated with minimal training. He sourced the processed pine wood pulp from a supplier in Mumbai, and the machines would grind, de-fibrate, press and sterilize the pads under ultraviolet light before packaging them for sale. The machine today costs ₹65,000 (US$910).
In 2006, he visited IIT Madras to show his idea and receive suggestions. They registered his invention for the National Innovation Foundation’s Grassroots Technological Innovations Award; it won the award. He obtained seed funding and founded “Jayaashree Industries”, which now markets these machines to rural women across India. The machine has been praised for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness, and his commitment to social aid has earned him several awards. Despite offers from several corporate entities to commercialize his venture, he has refused, and continues to provide these machines to self-help groups (SHGs) run by women.
Summarizing his life’s endeavor, Mr. Muruganantham said, “Many times, if you have a different will, you should not bother about the criticisms but pursue the cause relentlessly. As per the available data, I discovered that only 10% of Indian women use sanitary pads during their mensuration period due to its cost factor. So I set out to make a machine that could create these pads at much lower cost.” He further stated, “You need a mind-set to create something innovative and worthwhile. Fixed mind-set will not let you become creative and innovative. Connect with nature for inspiration and don’t bother about the resistances to your ideas. The whole world laughed at me, but I did not pay heed to them and continued with my search and experimentations. Address a problem in society and become a solution provider.”
Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham then opened the session for questions from the students. A series of questions relating to his life and struggle followed. To each of these questions, the distinguished guest provided the most satisfactory answer.
Towards the end of his powerful talk, the eminent guest Mr. Arunachalam Muruganantham shared some great words of career advice to the students who had just embarked upon a new phase in their academic life. He said, “Don’t use your education as a cakewalk for survival. Look for a problem, not an opportunity that makes you dead. Become a solution provider. Be like a creative butterfly that sucks the nectar of flowers and thereby helps in its pollination. You should similarly help in the pollination of our human society by contributing your creative solutions to the various problems obtaining here.”