Black marketing of oxygen concentrators: the need for immediate countrywide action

From Devsagar Singh

Black marketing of oxygen concentrators: the need for immediate countrywide action

New Delhi, May 8: Anti-social and unscrupulous elements are active in these trying times to take undue advantage of people’s misery. An eatery owner from South Delhi’s Khan Market, for example, was found selling oxygen concentrators in the black market charging exorbitant rates. As many as 419 concentrators were found in his possession in different places in the national capital. Now, a prominent concentrator manufacturer of international repute has publicly announced that some miscreants are misusing its brand name and selling fake products.

              Apparently, there is an organized racket running across the country to fleece people. A five-liter concentrator was available in the market prior to the second Covid surge for around Rs 25000. Now the price has gone up more than three times and yet it is not available upfront.  One has to search for a black market connection to buy it. According to a Pune resident, a physiotherapist known to him in town offered to arrange a concentrator for a price. This suggests that healthcare providers are probably hands-in-glove.

             The Government must act firmly to bust such rackets. An isolated arrest is not enough. It requires a countrywide raid and the strictest action on wrongdoers. In Delhi alone, this illegal racket must be of gigantic proportions, considering the acute shortage of medical oxygen cylinders in the city. Stray reports of black marketing of oxygen cylinders have also come from other cities. It lies under the jurisdiction of respective state governments to take action. In view of their ramification, however, the Centre must take the lead in deploying central agencies in order to stop the menace. It is said a large number of oxygen concentrators of Chinese make have found their way into the Indian market. They are, however, said to be not very reliable and, therefore, risky.

          With good intentions, the Government recently announced a customs waiver for oxygen concentrators sent by overseas Indians to their kin in India. Expectedly, more than a million strong ethnic Indians in the US with roots back home were to take advantage. Sources, however, say the American machines run into technical snags in India because of different voltage systems in the two countries. Besides, in certain places in the US,  the shopkeepers insist on a doctor’s prescription before selling the concentrators. As a result, oxygen concentrators are reportedly not reaching India in large numbers as expected.

            The Government, therefore, should make a serious assessment of the situation and take measures to manufacture enough oxygen concentrators within the country. Like it did in the case of several other pieces of equipment related to Covid treatment, there is a need to ramp up the production of concentrators and cylinders as well. While the current surge is still on, there are apprehensions and forecasts of the third wave by September. The next three months could be utilized for their manufacture in India.

               Meanwhile, countrywide surveillance must be stepped up to nab mischievous and unscrupulous elements who are exploiting a human tragedy to make quick money. What is, perhaps, needed is a nationwide alert.


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