Chemists and pharmacists have a long history of duping people in their most desperate times. Almost everyone has had a loved one of theirs admitted to the hospital and has had to pay exorbitant prices for drugs and medicines. Medicines that are not only made at half or one third their price but also sold at a much lower price if purchased far from the hospital. This behavior is something that people have come to expect from chemists and come to terms with for better or worse.
However, when I saw chemists and drugstores all over India, charging triple rate for a measly surgical mask and a hand sanitizer, I lost all faith in humanity. In a time when the Coronavirus pandemic has forced people worldwide to stay at their homes and practice utmost care in their social interactions, chemists are doing their best to up their profit. When human beings are attempting to help each other as much as they can, the pharma industry and their distributors are fooling people out of their hard-earned money using fear of death. That too from the elderly who are quite possibly spending their pension money? Shame on you, you greedy black marks on the name of humanity.
Charging elevated prices when demand suddenly jumps for a product or service is a common economic force and affects almost every product, from rental cars and food to movies and alcohol. But there has always been an unmentioned courtesy when it comes to daily necessities like food, water, and medicines. You don’t see the government charging for water as much as it does for electricity, right? This is because water, air, and food are basic amenities, which means the wealthy and the poor have an equal right to it.
The same goes for medicines. Or so I thought anyway. In World War II, when battalions and battalions of British soldiers were dying; free medication, food, and rationing items were provided by British civilians as well as Indians for their support. During the Indo-Pak War of 1965, when there came a severe shortage of food grains in India, the entire country -at the behest of then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri- fasted a day every week. In the 21st century, however, when technology runs supreme, apparently, human greed has also evolved.
Today when the entire humanity is under the threat of a deadly disease called COVID-19, all citizens have come forward to lend their hand for those in need. However, along with the angels have come the wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Dettol sanitizer that used to sell for 60 rupees only a month ago is selling currently for 150 rupees in North India. I’m pretty sure the situation is same in the rest of India. While Amazon is doing its best to make every necessary product available to its customers, offline shops are doing their best to reap the benefits of a worldwide pandemic. Kudos to the blood sucking chemists, I guess.
To see the extent to which human beings can fall in extreme situations, you don’t have to go far. Just go to your nearest chemist shop and ask for a 10 rupees surgeon mask, and you can very well be charged anything from 40 rupees to 200 rupees. Yes, you read that right. It means a range of 300 percent profit to 1900 percent profit. Still not shocked? In a time when WHO is busy trying to come up with a vaccine for Coronavirus, hand sanitizers of Dettol and Lifebuoy that can be bought normally at 60 or 70 rupees are selling for 150 rupees. In fact, in North India, local manufacturers have started making low-quality sanitizers selling them at a rate of 200 rupees. 200 rupees? I mean, what are you putting in them? Gold?
An N95 mask that every doctor is recommending to keep Coronavirus at bay is selling for 1200 rupees in the market. These, of course, are the original ones, which are rare to even encounter these days. Cheap knockoffs, that are actually dust masks at best and cloth masks at worst, are being sold by local chemists and drugstores at 250. The manufacturing cost of these low-quality masks is not even 20 rupees. Infact as the threat of Coronavirus is slowly becoming serious in our country and curfews are being implemented in half of India, the chemists have even raised the price of basic medicines like Anti-fever tablets, Antibiotics, and cough syrups.
Personally, I don’t know what to say to these greedy leeches. In a time when doctors and nurses are risking their lives to save people from Coronavirus in China, India, Italy, and every other affected country, the chemists, pharmaceutical companies, and drugstores are taking every opportunity they can to suck their customers. And of course, nobody is raising voice against this gross injustice. It is not because they accept this immoral behavior but because nobody wants to leave their family’s life to chance. My mother today bought me a 450 rupees mask when I’m not even going to the office. This is how a mother’s heart works. I wonder if the people selling a measly mask or sanitizer for 200 rupees have mothers at their homes. Will they be charging the same price from their mothers? I hope not, but I wouldn’t put it beneath them. They can do anything for money.
An acquaintance of mine who shall remain unnamed for his own good is a renowned chemist in Solan city of Himachal Pradesh, India. My friend, whose name rhymes with “Shame-son,” has been buying face masks from Chandigarh for 5 rupees per piece and is selling them for 40 per piece. When I confronted him about it, he said this is how business happens. With due respect, I am an MBA from IIM Calcutta and have been taught every tool of marketing there is to know. I, however, don’t use those tactics to fool people because that is how my parents raised me. I don’t know how these so-called chemists have been brought up by their parents, but I’m pretty sure if they could sell their soul, they would do it happily and perhaps charge a triple price for that rotten piece too.
I hope someday when their life or of someone close to theirs hangs in the balance, they meet somebody of pure heart. I wish they meet someone not like them because if they did, they would realize how excruciatingly it pains when somebody takes advantage of your weakness, and how angry you get when somebody tries to fool your family. I wish they don’t suffer the same fate as us.