Maharashtra is first state to cap mask rates

Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to cap prices of all kinds of masks based on the recommendations of a state-appointed committee set up to determine maximum rates for the critical Covid care item.

While a two-ply surgical mask will now be available for just Rs.3, a three-ply one will be sold for Rs.4 and an N-95 V-shaped one for Rs.19. Till now, the cheapest N-95 mask was sold for around Rs.70.

The state issued a government resolution on Tuesday to cap the rates till the Epidemic Diseases Act is in force.

The state GR has also made it mandatory for manufacturers and distributors to print the quality and MRP on the masks. Besides, masks cannot be sold at more than 70% of the MRP to healthcare providers such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope said, “To prevent the spread of coronavirus, the state has been appealing to citizens to wear masks and are also penalizing those not wearing them. Therefore, masks had to be made affordable for the common man. The chief minister and the deputy chief minister have approved the initiative to cap the prices of masks.”

The GR has pointed out that the prices had increased “enormously”. Besides, the Central government’s cap on mask rates had ended in June and the prices subsequently increased with citizens bearing the burden of the spike. Therefore, it had become essential to bring the prices of masks under control to prevent the spread of the virus.

The state committee set up under the chairmanship of Sudhakar Shinde, chief executive officer of the State Health Assurance Society, recommended drastically reduced MRP for various kinds of masks.

The prices set by the committee are four to six times lower than those fixed after the Centre’s National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority advisory. For instance, the price of an N-95 V-shaped mask priced at Rs.135 as per the NPPA advisory, has been brought down to Rs.19 by the state.

The prices were arrived at by the committee after GST officials visited mask manufacturing facilities and examined their books. They then arrived at the cost of manufacturing and profit margins required for the masks with the help of cost auditors.

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