Centre stalls demands of protective-gear manufacturers; HLL retains procurement monopoly amid COVID pandemic

23 March 2020
Workers make protective masks in Mumbai, on 14 March. Manufacturers of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers have opposed the Indian government’s decision to centralise procurement through HLL Lifecare Limited, a government-owned company.
Francis Mascarenhas/ REUTERS
Workers make protective masks in Mumbai, on 14 March. Manufacturers of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers have opposed the Indian government’s decision to centralise procurement through HLL Lifecare Limited, a government-owned company.
Francis Mascarenhas/ REUTERS

Emergency procurement of personal protective equipment—or PPE—such as masks, gloves and respirators for healthcare workers, remain stalled. PPE manufacturers are opposing the Indian government’s decision to centralise procurement through HLL Lifecare Limited, a government-owned company that has been granted the monopoly over the procurement of PPE kits. Officials from the ministry of health, the ministry of textiles, and representatives of HLL met twice on 23 March to iron out problems caused by the monopoly, the delays in supply of PPE kits, as well as lockdown. Yet, there does not appear to be any resolution so far.

According to PPE manufacturers, the process of procurement laid out by the Indian government requires every PPE manufacturer to send the PPE kit to HLL, which will then assemble it and send it forward to the different state and central hospitals treating COVID patients. This unwieldy process has created a bottleneck of medical equipment that is urgently needed by India’s healthcare workers.

“They want us to supply coveralls to HLL, to be assembled and sent it back to different states,” Sanjiiiv Kumar, the chairman of the Preventive Wear Manufacturers Association of India, said. “We are getting frantic calls from doctors who need the kits now. Do you think we have the time for this process? Everything is under lockdown and we can barely move our material. We cannot supply to HLL and perpetuate the centralisation of procurement. We are not here to do business as people die.”

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    Vidya Krishnan is a global health reporter who works and lives in India. Her first book, Phantom Plague: How Tuberculosis Shaped History, was published in February 2022 by PublicAffairs.

    Keywords: COVID-19 Ministry of Health and Family Welfare public health healthcare
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