The Congress on Friday attacked the Centre over the removal of face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities, asking why the government wants people to be charged high prices for these items amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Face masks and hand sanitisers are no more essential products as their supply is sufficient in the country and, therefore, are now kept out of the purview of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, Consumer Affairs Secretary Leena Nandan had said on Tuesday.
Tagging an office memorandum issued by the Consumer Affairs ministry on the removal of the items as essential commodities with his tweet attacking the government, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the government has removed face masks and hand sanitisers as 'essential commodities' and now they "can be sold at any MRP".
"On June 16, BJP government said -- As lockdown has been relaxed, demand for hand sanitisers may increase and it should continue to be covered under EC Act till Dec 31, 2020," Surjewala said in a series of tweets.
If on June 16, hand sanitisers were 'essential commodities' up till December 30, 2020, then what changed in 15 days, he asked.
"Why does the Government wants the people to be charged high prices? Why no price limit on these essentials to fight COVID-19? Is the war on COVID over?" he asked.
On March 13, the Union consumer affairs ministry had declared face masks and hand sanitisers as essential commodities for 100 days to boost supply and prevent hoarding of these items in its fight to check the spread of coronavirus.
Masks (2-ply and 3-ply surgical masks, N95 masks) and hand sanitisers were brought under the Essential Commodities Act, empowering states to regulate production, distribution and prices of these items and also crackdown on hoarding and black marketing.