The supplies, the probe discovered, are produced under extremely unhygienic and unsafe conditions, making them vulnerable to infection. Health experts around the world have warned that Covid-19 spreads through respiratory droplets and also possibly through surfaces and objects that carry the virus.
On advice, undercover reporters for India Today TV walked down the narrow broken alleys of Karawal Nagar in northeast Delhi leading to a narrow house.
The bags become masks
Inside, they encountered Dilip Kumar Rai, who until recently had been making bags for water taps. But as the demand for masks skyrocketed, he began producing them from the same material. Rai told the India Today TV Special Investigation Team that she outsourced the production to residents of her neighborhood.
"This material is produced at my friend's factory. We buy and sew here," he said. "We outsource labor to the surrounding households. They give 2,000, 4,000, 5,000 pieces. They do it in their homes."
BULK PRODUCTION, BULK SUPPLIES
Rai admitted that he would get the material for two lakh pieces of masks at once and distribute 5,000 packages to each house involved in the production. "We used to make bags for water taps from the same material." Proven further, Rai offered bulk supplies at Rs 8 per piece. He also claimed that he sells the same masks to a Delhi government hospital.
"I will not sell it less than Rs 8 per piece if it is in bulk. I usually charge Rs 10 per piece for an order of 20,000-30,000. I provided 30,000 pieces to GTB (hospital) for Rs 10 / piece," said Rai. But he is not the only one in this business.
NO GLOVES, NO STERILIZATION
In neighboring Noida, the India Today TV investigation team found a dilapidated unit that housed a fake surgical mask factory. No gloves for tailors. No sterilization or hygiene in the unit located in Sector 6. Noida HS Bisht of Diwan Industries now showed the samples. "Take one lakh pieces right away. They are ready," he offered as he searched for all the cash payments.
"As of now, we are taking pre-orders. The factory operates 24 hours a day." He confessed that the unit did not follow sterilization protocols. "There is no need to sterilize them," said Bisht.
Take one lakh pieces right away. They are ready. As of now, we are taking pre-orders. We will take cash orders. The factory operates 24 hours a day. There is no need to sterilize them.
– HS BISHT, NOIDA
NO SHUTDOWN, NO SOCIAL DISTANCE
In the Udyog Kunj industrial area of Ghaziabad, workers huddled together making surgical masks. Her boss, Rahul Agarwal, admitted that she has no idea of Covid-19's precautions.
"We used to make carrier bags before," he admitted, saying he switched to producing masks due to coronavirus-induced demand. "You will get them in a package of 100 pieces each. It is a box of 100 pieces. In medical stores, they can be sold in pieces," he told reporters on India Today TV.
We used to make transport bags before. I switched to masks due to Coronavirus-induced demand. You will get them in a package of 100 pieces each. It is a box of 100 pieces. They can be resold for parts.
– RAHUL AGARWAL, GHAZIABAD
Dr. Sanjeev Bagai, president of the Nephron Clinic, emphasized that face masks are primarily needed by health professionals, such as doctors and medical personnel in intensive care and those in close contact with sick patients. "A routine person walking on the road does not need to wear a mask," he said.
Buying face masks out of fear and panic, Dr. Bagai noted, is creating shortages. He also warned that faulty and poor facial protection could become a source of infection. "An incorrect mask can often cause infection rather than prevent infection."