Srinagar: When the COVID cases are surging, the administration has surprisingly removed facemasks and sanitizers from the essential commodities list.
On March 14, the central government had listed facemasks and hand sanitizers as ‘essential commodities’ owing to panic-buying and hoarding.
However, those items have now been removed from the list of essential commodities, according to a new order issued by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution.
“There are no adverse reports from the states/UTs, concerning price or availability to continue face masks, hand sanitizers as essential commodities. Therefore, this department has decided not to continue these as essential items under the Essential Commodities Act,” the order reads.
Drug Controller Jammu and Kashmir, Lotika Khajuria said the order has been issued by the central government.
“The masks and sanitizers are no longer categorized as essential commodities as per the new guidelines. However, the prices will remain the same,” she said.
Director of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Kashmir, Bashir Ahmad Khan said the face masks and sanitizers were not considered as essential commodities in the first place but these were included in the list only due to COVID 19.
“They must have withdrawn the notification given the fact that everyone has access to it,” he said.
However, he hastened to add that the department has to abide by the guidelines of the central government. “It is not in our domain and we have to follow the protocol,” he said.
The Essential Commodities Act allowed the government to fix the price and put a cap on the stock of essential consumer items, Earlier notification was valid up to June 30 and the consumer affairs ministry has decided not to extend it further.
President Doctors Association of Kashmir, Dr. Suhail Naik pointed out that the Essential Commodities Act is actually in the interest of the general public for the control of the production, supply, and distribution and retailing of certain essential commodities.
“Though people can use home-made masks and wash hands with simple soap, the threat of virus will force them to purchase masks and sanitizers from markets. Henceforth by removing the masks and sanitizers from the list of essential commodities can lead to black marketing, profiteering, and exorbitant rates,” he said.
Another medico from GMC, Srinagar said the exclusion of masks and sanitizers from the essentials is not acceptable. “It seems the government is playing with the lives of people by shrugging off its responsibility and encouraging profiteering,” he said.