Good intent gone to seed

Good intent gone to seed

Condom Vending Machines

Recently,  at Delhi’s Central Secretariat Metro Station the HLL Lifecare Ltd (HLL), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of contraceptives, in cooperation with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) installed a condom vending machine amid great fanfare. There are also plans to cover 21 other stations.

However, laudable as the move is, it begs a question, what happened to the CVMs that were installed a few years back in public spaces for easy and uninterrupted supply of prophylactics?  

Reportedly, in the past crores have been invested in CVMs which were installed across the country by National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). Also, according to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report that was tabled in the Parliament last year, almost 90 per cent of condom vending machines installed at public places by NACO for HIV/AIDS prevention have gone missing.

The CAG also said that the CVM scheme “was characterised by poor planning and implementation.”

Around 2,000 such machines were also installed in the City itself. Today, you can hardly find these CVMs in a working condition. 

“The machine was installed as a part of the government scheme. Initially it was functional but for the last one year it hasn’t been working. Surprisingly, those who have installed the machines haven’t come to check and rectify the fault.  We have to buy condoms from medical store inside the campus,” says Vinay Kumar, who is doing PhD in Hindi translation from Jawaharlal Nehru University.  Reiterating similar view Mohammed Sahal, doing civil engineering from a private university says, he hasn’t seen any condom vending machine installed in any public place like railway stations, restaurants, bus terminals or cinema houses.  “The main purpose of these condom vending machines is to cater to the poor people living in high risk areas. But people vandalise it and sell it to get money for their drugs.” 

Addressing this concern Monika Mehndiratna, member of the NGO Drishtikon committed to prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS among marginalised and socio-economically backward sections of society says, sarcastically, “There is no question of these machines being functional. Are they really installed in the City?” “Even those installed in high-risk areas were in a shabby condition and had to be removed. Definitely, NACO cannot install machines everywhere. But when you talk about high-risk areas where prostitution and men having sex with men is high, these places need to have these machines.”

According to her until two years ago, condom vending machines used to be functional. “It seems agencies handling these CVMs merely exist on paper,” she says.  The answer lies in CAG report which was released last year revealing that of the 22,000 condom-vending machines installed across the country, 10,000 went missing and 1,100 were not working. 

When Metrolife contacted NACO, an official who preferred anonymity said, “The project of installing condom vending machines is over now and we have handed it over to social marketing agencies. In different states these agencies are working in rural areas to ensure easy accessibility of condoms in grocery or tea shops.” Ask him about the situation in Delhi, he says, “There is no interference by the Government on the working of these agencies and NACO is also not a part of it.  Therefore, you can hardly find any functional machine.”

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