Hyderabad: Led by Telangana health minister Etala Rajendar, ruling TRS politicians insist there is no need for the people of the state to wear masks against the coronavirus. Some members of the pink party, however, are taking advantage of the fear abroad; they are minting money by “controlling” the manufacture of masks that are being exported at exorbitant prices.
But, despite the high mark-up, foreign dealers are queuing up like never before.
Sources associated with exporters told Deccan Chronicle that ever since the first case in Hyderabad tested positive, individuals close to TRS politicians sensed an opportunity, as did exporters and middlemen.
These TRS leaders stayed behind the scenes while associates took control over the production of masks. They used the police to keep an eye on manufacturing firms and ensure that a major chunk of masks was blocked for their associates. In some cases, phone calls were made to advise the manufacturing units to give preference to “their” people.
Sources said that on the outskirts of Hyderabad, masks are stockpiled at safe houses of TRS leaders. “Some are guarded by policemen round-the-clock,” sources said.
“In the absence of regulations on the manufacturing and hoarding of masks, those connected to the ruling party have a free run,” sources said, adding that this made business difficult for other exporters and middlemen who are in turn looking at manufacturing units in states other than Telangana. There are at least half a dozen manufacturing units in the state.
While several exporters have struck lucrative deals for exporting masks, they are now frantically visiting other states to meet the demand after local manufacturers are denying stock to them.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, surgical masks were manufactured at Rs 2 per piece. But due to the higher price of raw material, the price of each has gone up to Rs 6-7. Exporters are willing to pay around Rs 25-28 while the international price has touched over USD 3.5 per piece.
The export of masks has triggered fear about a potential shortage of masks in the state if the virus was to spread. “In this scenario, the retailers stand no chance. If all the stock is diverted in favour of a few who front for TRS leaders, then how can other exporters do business?” rued an exporter.
While most exporters kept their foreign clients a secret to ensure no one poached them, the TRS politicians’ fronts have established extensive contact with overseas dealers and are supplying to them in the millions. On an average, overseas companies are selling one to two million masks per day after purchasing it from India. There are less than 100 manufacturing units nationwide....