• Shounik Joshi

Black Marketing and Cartelization of essential COVID Resources

The Sudden Shortage: Did we not see it coming?

As sufferers strive to find available hospital beds, medical oxygen and life-saving drugs such as Remdesivir, a flourishing black market decamps afflicted people throughout the nation. The Hospitals' alarming shortage of beds/vaccines/oxygen/drugs spurred the black marketing of quintessential resources.

People nationwide have had to turn to the black market to secure essential medical supplies as the second COVID wave ravages India.

The Judicial View

On the 3rd of May, the Supreme Court of India said that "Black marketing of Covid-19 drugs is a condemnable attempt to exploit peoples' misery", the preface of the statement being the evident underground economy formed on the cartelization of essential covid-19 resources.

The subject of humanity or basic moral code will not allow humans to profit from one of the most severe outbreaks the face of Earth has ever seen.

The Forthcoming Conditions

Even though India is lauded as the "pharmacy of the world." the manufacturers cannot coincide with the demand for antiviral medicines. The question is who is to blame for the dismal situation the citizens are facing right now? Who is to blame for the exponential growth of the black marketing of such crucial products? A short answer being the Government.

The centre's irresponsibility and mismanagement led to the current shortages even after being warned several times, despite having a whole year to prepare for the second wave.

In a series of tweets, the health ministry concluded that most of the new oxygen plants were not functional and that "out of 162 PSA oxygen plants, 33 have been installed.", eventually increasing the opportunities for black marketeers to become cartels of crucial commodities.

Due to the appalling shortage of drugs and other resources, people had no other choice instead of turning towards the black market. Moreover, it is not surprising that such basic resources are being sold at exorbitant rates as an oxygen cylinder that generally costs about 6000 rupees; the same cylinder is sold at a staggering amount of 50000 rupees in the black market (Delhi) which is almost nine times the original cost.

Furthermore, the narrative is not very different in cities like Noida, Allahabad and Lucknow. Meeting the exponentially growing demand for antiviral medicines is an uphill battle for manufacturers.

The greatly saddening part related to Remdesivir is that neither the manufacturers nor the policymakers expected a second wave and failed to stockpile the life-saving drug. The production was reduced due to less demand after the severe first wave of covid. Additionally, the absence of wakefulness on the part of the Government to assure stockpiling led to the current Remdesivir deficit.

Even though India has banned exports, manufacturers are struggling to meet the demand. India has been reporting more than 100,000 cases daily since the 6th of April. Nevertheless, somehow, the medicines are available in the black market, which indicates a leakage in the supply system, something the regulators have not obstructed.

The circumstance created by the shortage also forced the citizens to resort to social media, though it had turned out to be a ray of hope due to the constant exchange of information related to COVID resources, which concludes that when the prime minister introduced the term "Atmanirbhar Bharat", he meant it...literally.

Black Market Raids

Given that demand has surpassed the supply in the country, police and other reviewing agencies have quenched black marketeers:

  • New Delhi, the capital city, which has been confronting a massive shortage of medical oxygen, police raided a building in a posh neighbourhood and seized over 400 oxygen concentrators on the 7th of May.

  • Delhi police have raided at least three restaurants and recovered about 524 oxygen concentrators that were stored illegally.

  • Atul Thakur, a senior police officer, said that they "have arrested several people under sections of the Essential Commodities Act and Epidemic Diseases Act".

  • Let alone in Delhi, the police have recorded over 110 cases and have arrested more than 100 cartels for defrauding people with vital drugs and medical oxygen.

  • Fifty-two other cases have been filed hoarding and black marketing.

In an article by the BBC, they talked about speaking to a few black-market traders who stated that the supply was short, which was the preface of them charging such high prices.

The Government has allowed seven firms to produce Remdesivir; the firms have been told to maximize output, though the Government's outlooks of sufficient accumulation have failed to show any effect on the ground. Additionally, the decision to enhance production was taken too late, which again surfaces that the centre should have been prepared for the next wave.

The need of the hour, coupled with the panic in people, has led to them willing to buy dubious drugs as well, and the desperation has made them a blind believer in anyone who can assure them some supplies, even if the sources are questionable.


Sources - DW, Business Today, BBC, India.com, Scroll

~ Shounik Joshi