N-95 masks continue to be expensive despite govt regulation

In October, the Maharashtra State Health Minister Rajesh Tope had announced that the State Government will cap the prices of N-95 masks and double-layered masks.

Credit : Reuters

In October, the Maharashtra State Health Minister Rajesh Tope had announced that the State Government will cap the prices of N-95 masks and double-layered masks. While N-95 masks will be sold at Rs 19-49, the double-layered masks will be sold at Rs 3 to Rs 4, he had said.

However, several medical stores across Pune are still selling the masks at more than the decided price. “I purchased the N-95 mask for Rs 90 last week as I was unaware of this notification. I believe that it should be the chemist’s responsibility to inform the citizens, instead of defying the laws and benefitting from them,” said Amol Lohakare, 25, a shop owner from Pune.

Speaking about how the decision to cap prices of the mask has affected the distributors, Ritesh Jain, a medical store owner from Vadgaonsheri, said, “We purchased hundreds of masks for Rs 130-150 each from the supplier. And now the government wants us to incur a heavy loss and sell these for Rs 50. This isn’t fair especially when the government is not giving us any compensation.”

Another masks distributor from Deccan, Vasant Sarda, said that the government’s decision came after prices for masks were being unnecessarily hiked by the distributors. “We understand that it is important to put some restrictions on the prices of the mask. They are a necessary tool in the fight against COVID-19, and hiking the price will mean most people won’t be able to afford these masks as the masks need to be changed regularly. However, as genuine distributors, we never hiked the prices. We purchased the masks for Rs 100 from the supplier before this notification was issued, and we are forced to sell them at half the price now. Why? Just for the sake of following correct trade practices, we will be facing a huge loss now,” he said. Sarda also added that some distributors are taking undue advantage of the public’s lack of awareness concerning this notification and are selling the masks for much higher prices.

Dhanesh Kad, a manufacturer and supplier of masks from Chakan, said that the distributors are crying foul now after earning lots of profits from masks previously. “After investing into all the raw materials for manufacturing a double-layered cloth mask, I used to sell each mask for Rs 3 to 5 as a supplier too. These masks were then sold to the consumers for Rs 25-30. Speaking of N-95 masks, their manufacturing cost was somewhere around Rs 20-30. But they were sold for more than Rs 100 in the seven-eight months. The distributors have earned lots of profits by unnecessarily hiking the prices of the mask and fooling the public, and now they are complaining about the losses. These losses mean nothing compared to the money they have earned during the early days of lockdown,” Kad said.

As per the notification issued by the State Government, any grievances and complaints regarding this notification could be registered with the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Commissioner or the district level authorities. But consumers have said that these helplines have been inaccessible. Even when Indie Journal tried to contact these offices for a response, they remained unavailable too.