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Centre's no check policy fleecing buyers on masks

Centres no check policy fleecing buyers on masks

Kolkata: Blame it on Centre's apathy towards regulation of the price of masks—including the surgical ones, chain pharmacies as well as standalone medicine stores are fleecing customers even after 8 months into the pandemic.

As the Centre has not specified any fixed rate for masks, there is no uniformity in its pricing across the city. When it comes to masks, medicine shops charge customers at their whims and fancies.

As a result, common people are being forced to buy masks at exorbitant rates. In fact, the chain pharmacies—which have outlets across the country—are also not maintaining uniform price for the masks.

For instance, most of the outlets of Medplus are charging Rs 10 per surgical mask while Apollo Pharmacy has kept the price at Rs 16. There is no uniformity in the rate of other masks sold in these outlets as well.

"The Centre has excluded masks and sanitisers from the list of emergency items. As a result, there is no control over the pricing and the quality of the masks. Initially, it was in the list but later removed. If there is no fixed MRP, the shops can charge exorbitantly and the people would face the problem. There is no price sticker pasted on most of these masks," said Sankha Roy Chowdhury, president of the Bengal Chemists and Druggist Association said.

Not just the medicine shops, but locally-made masks are being sold at other shops too. As there is no specific guideline on the selling of masks by the Centre, buyers are getting exploited.

The matter was raised by the state government after the pandemic broke out. But, the Centre apparently paid no heed to the issue, which is so crucial in the present situation.

Buyers alleged that there is no check on the quality of the masks being sold in markets.

"Had Centre fixed the rate of two-layered, three-layered and N95 masks; there would have been no issue. Even the quality of masks and sanitisers are not properly maintained. We had urged the Centre to enlist masks and sanitisers in the list of essential items. We had also appealed to the government to restrict the sale of these items to medicine shops only. A grocer or a road side stall is now selling masks and sanitisers. How would the quality be maintained?" added Roy Chowdhury.

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