The ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has taken out face masks and hand sanitisers from the list of essential commodities. The relaxation will help free pricing, storage and marketing of the two products, which are in great demand ever since COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in India.
In an official communication, the ministry said that the decision was taken after there were no complaints from the states regarding the availability or affordability of face masks and hand sanitisers.
The Essential Commodities Act 1955 has stringent provisions to control the price and stock of all the products that are listed as "essential" under the law. The government added face masks and hand sanitisers in the list of essential commodities after widespread shortage was reported from across the country in March, when COVID-19 cases started to build up in the country.
The production of both sanitisers and face masks were ramped up subsequently with several firms and community level societies pitching in to produce various types of the two products. While the production of medical grade face masks are governed by prescribed quality standards, there were several other categories that were meant to be used by people who are not in the high risk category that were mass produced to ensure adequate supply of masks in the country. The relaxation will not be applicable for products that are categorised as drugs.
With the government discountinuing the products from the essential list, companies who have been engaged in the manufacture of these two products can bring back price differentiation on the basis of the ingredients and specifications that are being offered. The official note says that the new status has been made applicable from July 1, 2020.