In grave disregard for people’s lives, 60 per cent of the hand sanitisers sold in Punjab have been found to be not only of substandard quality but also in some cases containing methanol, a lethal substance. As the coronavirus rages, hand sanitisation — along with wearing masks and maintaining social distance — is the general armoury of the public against the dreaded virus. Ever since the fight against the pandemic began, people have been religiously applying sanitisers on their hands and even spraying them on fomites multiple times a day, secure in the belief that the alcohol-based liquid has been effectively killing the dreaded germs. Cruelly, their faith has been sacrificed at the altar of greed and immorality. Rather than shielding them from Covid-19 all this while, the illegal products may have exposed unsuspecting customers to the dangerous side-effects of methanol, which is known to cause harm to the skin, eyes, and the central nervous system.
The government authorities have been proactively addressing various aspects of the pandemic. As the urgency of ramping up production of hand sanitisers to meet the ballooning demand became clear early this year, sensing a business opportunity — and, in some instances, of making a quick buck — many companies queued up for grant of licence, including those in the industrial belt of Baddi in Himachal Pradesh. While their applications were fast-tracked, masks and sanitisers were brought under the purview of the Essential Commodities Act to prevent their hoarding and regulate their prices.
But the presence of large-scale substandard or adulterated sanitisers in the market exposes the laxity of the government’s control-and-check mechanisms. Playing with the lives of people during a public health crisis warrants quick and stringent punishment to the culprits. Aghast, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has taken suo motu notice of the matter. Meanwhile, educating the public on how to pick FDA-approved standard sanitisers is essential to prevent further damage.