Masks and hand sanitisers have been declared as essential commodities due to shortage in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak .
On March 13, the Centre notified an order under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to declare 2 ply and 3 ply surgical masks, N95 masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities till June 30, 2020. It has also issued an advisory under the Legal Metrology Act, so that States can ensure these items are not sold for more than the Maximum Retail Price (MRP).
It has been noted that these products are “either not available with most of the vendors in the market or are available with great difficulty at exorbitant prices”, said a statement from the Consumer Affairs Department.
States can now notify the Central order in their own official gazettes, and ask manufacturers to enhance production capacity of these products, said the statement. The decision would also empower the State and Central governments to regulate production, quality, distribution and sales of these items and carry out operations against those involved in speculation, overpricing and black marketing.
Consumers can register complaints in this regard with the National Consumer Helpline 1800-11-4000 or at consumerhelpline.gov.in. An offender under the Essential Commodities Act can be punished with imprisonment up to seven years, or a fine, or both.