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Profiteering during a pandemic

  • 04 August, 2020

  • 8 Min Read

Profiteering during a pandemic

Context

  • The nationwide lockdown phase witnessed an exponential rise in prices of essential items like masks and sanitizers across the country.
  • With the rise in the number of cases, there have been reports of private hospitals overcharging patients, even after state governments capped COVID-19 treatment charges. In some private hospitals, patients have been asked to pay lakhs even before being allotted beds.
  • The cost of medicines like Remdesivir has also shot up leading to a situation where the poor have been unable to afford the essential medicines.
  • There have been reports of overcharging by the ambulance owners too in these pandemic times.
  • Buses operated by private agencies have charged exorbitant fares from poor migrants looking to go back to their native places.

Epidemic Diseases Act:

  • The British enacted the Epidemic Diseases Act in 1897 empowering the government to implement any measures that would prevent the outbreak or spread of any disease.
  • According to the law, anyone disobeying the orders of any public servant can be punished under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • However, the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act in 1897 seem insufficient to effectively curb the economic exploitation of the common man during the pandemic crisis.

Way forward:

  • The article argues in favour of incorporating a provision in the Disaster Management Act of 2005 to make overcharging the public a punishable offence.
  • Denying admission in hospitals, refusing to bury the dead in cemeteries, etc. need to be made punishable offences.

Source: TH

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