Friday, March 24

Bengal scores big in making sanitizer, masks

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Amid the corona scare across the country, there is a silver lining for the state, as ‘Made-in-Bengal’ products got a big boost in fighting the pandemic. The state has become self-sufficient in producing sanitizers, masks and PPEs in just three weeks. The state MSME, excise department and hundreds of MSME producers have made this possible. These three items, vital to combat Covid-19, had hardly any indigenous production few weeks back.

The state has already produced 1.8 lakh litres of sanitizers, which is not only sufficient for hospitals but is also being marketed through medicine shops. Same is the story for PPE and masks as well.

State MSME secretary Rajesh Pandey pointed that while the Covid warnings and airport screenings had started in February this year, Bengal was relatively unaffected till the middle of March. However, the situation changed once the first Covid positive case was detected on March 17. Immediately, the government had assessed the requirements of supplies of essential items like thermal guns, PPEs, masks and hand sanitizers.

According to Pandey, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said in the first meeting that MSME department would co-ordinate and arrange the essentials. “By the third week of March, the availability of hand sanitizers in the market and medicine shops had almost dried up. It was realized that the traditional methods of its procurement would not work. So, the MSME units around Kolkata, which specialize in chemical products, were contacted” he added.

Pandey said that over 40,000 litres of sanitizer were received in the first week but there was hardly any supply. So, the government decided to allow the use of ethyl alcohol that was available with the excise department-controlled distilleries. Two distilleries in the state produce extra neutral alcohol (ENA), a kind of ethyl alcohol, which was used for producing the sanitizers.

“The distilleries have 10 lakh litres of ethyl alcohol now. After supplying it to hospitals, our MSME units have already supplied 12,000 litres to medicine shops for retail sales. We still have enough raw materials for making sanitizers here. Around 10 units are producing sanitizers,” he added.

After the outbreak of Covid-19, the state had ordered five lakh PPE from central undertakings but received only 3,000. “So, we decided to make it ourselves. The raw material for this poly propylene was available in Haldia. The blue tape required for this was also imported,” said Pandey. Around 300 MSME units, including Metiaburuz garments clusters, are producing 10,000 plus PPE per day. “We are self-sufficient in N95 masks too,” he added.


Source: Times of India

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