KOLKATA: The enforcement branch (EB) found that at least 25% of medical shops and wholesale distributors were selling masks at a far higher price.
“Priced between Rs 20-50, even the normal (non N-95) masks were found being sold at Rs 80-Rs 120 each,” claimed a source. However, in most shops, the masks were out of stock. “We have found that supply is short as the main filter (used in N-95 masks) are not being imported from China,” said a senior EB official.
“On Friday, we had randomly checked 10-12 shops near some hospitals. When we realized that most of them were running out of stock, we decided to check the Burrabazar area on Saturday. Accordingly, we went to Mehta Buildding and Bagri Market. A firm in Maharashtra is still supplying the masks of different qualities, prices ranging between Rs 7 and Rs 80. We have asked sellers not to charge anything extra for products manufactured by this company,” said Biswajit Ghosh, DC (EB).
It was found during the raid that none of the shops carried the MRP on the masks. At Mehta Building, TOI came across several customers who were asked to pay Rs 300 for one mask. “We do not even know if the mask I bought for Rs 300 is of the N-95 variety,” said Kaushik Roy, a resident of Behala.
“We had three objectives — one is to ensure that prices are not jacked up. The second is to stop hoarding. And the third objective is to understand the supply chain and we have come to know that there indeed is a demand-supply crisis,” said an officer.
According to sources, the market for masks in India has swelled up to Rs 450 crore over last two months from about Rs 200 crore annually. “Earlier, the demand was for 6 lakh-7 lakh a month. Now sales have crossed 10 lakh a month,” a stockist has informed EB officials.