Lucknow: A controversy has erupted over the price of khadi to be used for making of crores of face masks in Uttar Pradesh to combat the spread of coronavirus.
While the UP Khadi & Village Industries Board is willing to provide about Rs 65 per metre of khadi, Gandhi Ashrams in various districts have stated the value of the material ranges between Rs 84-102 per metre.
According to an official communication from UP Khadi & Village Industries Board dated April 6, the material required for making 66 crore masks as ordered by the government will be about 80 to 11 GSM (grams per square metre) with one metre of khadi being used to make eight masks.
For this, the board has quoted an amount of Rs 65 per metre. However, the authorities of various Gandhi Ashrams across the state have expressed their helplessness in providing the material at the given rate.
The general secretary of the ashram in Barabanki, which has been given the task of supplying khadi for productions of masks for Barabanki and Sultanpur region, Ravi Kant Pande, said it would not be possible to supply the material at the government’s rate.
“We have received the orders for Barabanki and Sultanpur region, but the government’s rate is too low and we will incur heavy losses. Even if we supply the material at Rs 102 per metre, it will be at a loss, but that much can be taken care of,” Pande told News18.
The general secretary of the Gandhi Ashram of Lucknow, Brajbhushan Pandey, has written to the government expressing the ashram’s inability to provide the khadi at quoted price.
The general secretary of Agra Gandhi Ashram, Shambhu Nath Chaubey, said the government’s rate is not even close to the input cost.
“One contract has been given in Unnao at Rs 65 a metre, but that material is not khadi, but markeen. The issue over the cost started because no one from any Gandhi Ashram was consulted before finalising the rate,” Chaubey said.
Meanwhile, the UP Khadi & Village Industries Board has started looking for alternative options.
The board’s Planning Officer, Mahendra Pratap Singh, said, “There are other organisations who are ready to supply the material at the given rate. Regional officers have now been given the responsibility of procuring the material, getting the masks done and distributing the same. If the Gandhi Ashrams are unable to supply the material at the prescribed rate, other options will be considered. The price has been finalised.”
With the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the state, the Yogi Adityanath-led government has made wearing of masks compulsory for everyone stepping out of their house.
Soon after, it ordered the production of 66 crore protective masks for about 23 crore residents of the state. The washable masks will be made from khadi and each resident would be getting two masks. The masks will be distributed for free among poor people, while others would have to pay a nominal sum for the same.
Following a meeting chaired at the chief minister’s residence, the decision of distributing masks was taken on April 4. A team of 11 senior-most officials, led by Adityanath, was formed in to ensure effective implementation of the government’s policies in the state in the wake of the pandemic.