Bengaluru: The Pinarayi Vijayan administration of Kerala has enlisted the help of prison inmates at Thiruvananthapuram, Viyyur and Kannur central prisons to fight the shortage of masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first batch of 1,000 masks produced by inmates was handed over to the state government Saturday, with 5,000 others expected to be ready Sunday.
“A thousand masks were handed over to the health department Saturday and another 5,000 masks will be made available Sunday,” an official of the Kerala Chief Minister’s Office told ThePrint.
Made by the tailoring units of the three prisons, the two-layered cotton masks are washable and thus reusable. They have been priced at Rs 15-20 apiece.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan took to Twitter to share the images of the blue masks that have been made by the jail inmates, with this caption: “Solving the mask shortage”. He also said the “manufacturing of masks has begun on a war footing basis”.
#COVID19 | Solving The Mask Problem 😷
In light of the shortage, directions were given to engage the prisons in the State in manufacturing masks. It has commenced on a war footing basis. Today, the Prison officials of Thiruvananthapuram Jail have handed over the first batch. pic.twitter.com/QKgHWqYNOg
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) March 14, 2020
The success of the initiative seems to have blurred ideological differences, with the BJP-led Karnataka government looking to follow their Left contemporaries in Kerala.
To cut price rise
Along with frequent use of hand sanitisers and vigorous hand-washing, wearing masks has been suggested as a key measure to prevent coronavirus infection, which spreads through the droplets released when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Amid growing infections, consumers have been flocking to the market to purchase masks and sanitisers, leading to shortages.
This led to reports that shopkeepers in some cities were selling the essentials at two-three times their price. The central government moved in to list them under the Essential Commodities Act for a short period to mitigate any possibility of cost surges, but the state has found isolated incidents of shopkeepers selling masks over their MRP.
The state government has issued strict instructions that the masks made by prison inmates should not be sold beyond their MRP.
Kerala has registered 19 positive cases of COVID-19 so far. Three students of the state were reported to be the first Indian patients of the infection but they have since been cured.
The suggestion to involve jail inmates in the manufacture of masks was first suggested by Kerala’s social justice department. With the approval of the health department, the idea was put into action.
“When the suggestion was put forth, the jail inmates immediately agreed. The production has begun on a mass scale,” deputy inspector general (prisons) Santhosh Kumar told reporters in Kerala Friday.
Daily production is expected to rise to 10,000 masks a day and this will help beat the acute shortage, said jail officials.
Industries minister E.P. Jayarajan has said that, along with masks, there was a huge shortage of sanitisers too but it was being tackled by the Kerala government.
The government has pressed the Kerala State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals (KSDP) to produce an additional 10 lakh bottles of hand sanitisers in the coming week, a Kerala health official said.
Taking a cue from Kerala, Karnataka labour secretary Captain Manivannan has written to the state health department to assess if the model can be implemented in the state as well.
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