KUNAL CHATTERJEE, Kolkata: Kolkatans are finding it difficult to hide behind N95 masks as these must-have items in the days of coronavirus scare have vanished from the shelves of medicine shops. Similar is the story with hand sanitizers.
As in any crisis, blackmarketers are having a field day. The mask prices at Rs 250 is selling for Rs 650. The matter has come to the notice of Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has now asked her administration to crack down on such unscrupulous businessmen and hoarders. On Friday, she said that her health ministry has asked the Centre to supply adequate number of masks to the state.
Kaushik Bairagi, an engineer working in the IT sector in Salt Lake, complained that he had not been able to lay his hands on masks and sanitizers despite making several rounds in multiple medicine outlets. “The company where I work has put up a notice saying that everyone should get their masks and sanitizers. But where do I find them?” he said.
There are only two Indian companies that manufacture sanitizers—Dettol and Lifebuoy. Asish Purkait, working in one of them as sales manager, said, “The demand for masks and sanitizers has grown manifold. Most of our supplies were diverted abroad. There was never such demand for these products in India. We had supplied adequate numbers but such is the scare that they vanished from most shops. We inquired with the importers of N95 masks and they told that they are having problems procuring them.”
Not just masks and sanitizers, the Ayush Ministry mandated homeopathic medicine Arsenicum Album 30 that is now being sold from allpathic medicine shops are also hard to get. Sudhanshu Seal, a homeopathic doctor, said, “Arsenicum Album is used to cure diverse ailments. This is especially used for to cure common cough and cold. Coronavirus symptoms are more or less same as in the case of common cold. The medicine also helps to cure respiratory problems that are caused by cold. So the Ayush Ministry has rightly recommended it as a potent medicine at this time of crisis.”
Budhadeb Das, the store manager of a Frank Ross retail shop in south Kolkata, said that his shop is selling around 50 bottles every day. “As far as N 95 masks are concerned, none of our shops have even a single piece. Though we have ordered stocks 15 days back, that haven’t arrived,” he said.