GUWAHATI, Aug 25 - Till March this year, India did not produce a single personal protective equipment (PPE) kit and now the country is in a position to provide it to friendly countries to improve diplomatic relations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Same is the case with N-95 masks as the country is producing enough not only to meet its own demand but also to supply abroad.
Highly placed sources in the Government of India told The Assam Tribune that PPE kit production is one of the biggest success stories of the Atmanirbhar Bharat project. Sources revealed that till March this year, India did not produce any PPE kit and around 50,000 such kits were imported every year, mainly from China to meet the demand. But the demand for PPE kits shot up abruptly following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the Government of India formed a committee of senior officers to facilitate the process of production of PPE kits by private organizations. Now the country is producing around five lakh kits a day, which is much more than the actual requirement in the country.
Sources revealed that around a thousand companies in the country are now engaged in production of PPE kits and to ensure that the price is maintained, the Government has put the item in the list of essential commodities. In the initial stage, export of PPE kits was not allowed, but from the month of July onwards, the Director General of Foreign Trades has allowed export of 50 lakh PPE kits in a month . In July, around 23 lakh PPE kits were exported to different countries and it is expected that this month, 50 lakh kits will be exported, bringing in valuable foreign exchange.
Sources said that apart from the exports, the Government of India has also started supplying PPE kits free of cost to friendly countries including Bhutan, which would help in improving diplomatic relations.
The Government, in a bid to improve diplomatic ties with Bangladesh, has allowed the neighbouring country to avail the PPE kit testing facilities in India. The PPE kits should go through rigorous tests before they are put into use and till date, Bangladesh does not have facilities to carry out such tests.
That is why, the kits used in Bangladesh are tested in the laboratories in India. However, the Government has not yet allowed export of the fabric used to make PPE kits. Similarly, the production of N-95 masks has also increased and the country is now self sufficient.
Sources said that there were initial hiccups when some companies were encouraged to manufacture PPE kits as at that time the country was in total lockdown and even transportation of material to the factories was a problem. But the high level committee formed to facilitate the process worked hard to coordinate between the concerned agencies and police to make sure that the raw materials, fabric and other materials reach the factories on time and the finished products could be transported to the final destinations.