On 29 March, India supplied 90 tonnes of medical protective equipment to Serbia to help the country in fighting the Chinese coronavirus outbreak.
Similar tweet of goods being exported to Serbia from Cochin Customs House also raised similar concerns.
The 2nd cargo Boeing 747 with 90t of medical protective equipment landed from India to Belgrade today. The transportation of valuable supplies purchased by @SerbianGov has been fully funded by the #EU while @UNDPSerbia organized the flight & ensured the fastest possible delivery. pic.twitter.com/pMZqV7dwTg— UNDP in Serbia (@UNDPSerbia) March 29, 2020
Cochin customs in action to clear a consignment of 35 lakhs pairs of sterile latex surgical gloves to Serbia to support the global war against #COVID2019 #IndianCustomsAtWork #cbic pic.twitter.com/T6I7u04pow— Cochin Customs (@cochin_customs) March 28, 2020
The medical equipment was purchased by the Serbian government and was funded by the European Union. However, many in India felt that this supply of medical equipment to Serbia was little irresponsible on part of Indian government as India itself running short on personal protection equipment and other critical gear.
OpIndia reached out to government officials in the know of the things who clarified that the medical equipments sent to Serbia other then being done on humanitarian grounds is not affecting India’s stock of critical gear needed by medical professionals. “There are presently 33 units in India making surgical gloves, with installed capacity of more than 10 crore pairs per month. Capacity utilisation is in the range of 20-30 % due to adverse market conditions. There is no shortage of the raw material of rubber latex too. Hence, any export will only help poor rubber farmers and increase their income,” top government source in the know of things told OpIndia.
In fact, India provided 15 tonnes of medical equipments to China worth Rs 2.11 crore when the communist country was hit by the outbreak. The deadly COVID-19 virus originated in China’s Wuhan which has infected over 7 lakh people worldwide and has left thousands dead. Moreover, India had banned export of the crucial N95 masks and personal protection equipments (PPEs) since January 31, 2020 [DGFT circular – pdf]. In an amended order also, the DGFT had allowed export of only surgical and disposable masks and all gloves except NBR gloves [pdf]. The PPEs and N95 masks continued to remain restricted even in that order. Hand Sanitizers and ventilators are prohibited from export from 24 March 2020. Textile raw materials for masks and coveralls are also prohibited from export from 19 March 2020 [pdf].
Moreover, the Indian government has reiterated time and again that the authorities have sufficient stock of crucial medical equipment needed to fight the Chinese coronavirus. Hence, while the concerns of some could be genuine and not politically motivated, they are unfounded.