AiMeD applauds Govt’s decision to import medical devices, deplores move of duty-free imports

We are disheartened  to know that GoI will be reducing duty on import of masks, ventilator and PPE to nil and it was already nil for gloves. Consumers are protected by labelled MRP or by capped MRP, not by duties, Govt fails to realise: Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, AiMeD

The Association of Indian Medical Devices Industry (AiMeD) applauds the GoI’s decision to import ventilators, face masks, surgical masks, personal protection equipment (PPE), COVID-19 test kits considering the immediate requirement due to COVID-19 crisis but cautions Govt about the harmful effects of duty-free imports.

Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, AiMeD on behalf of the Indian Medical Device Industry said “We are not against imports. We ourselves told Govt the capacity limitations and to arrange imports of PPE till Indian manufacturing gears up but that doesn’t mean that imports should come in to undermine ‘Make in India’ efforts. We are disheartened  to know that GoI will be reducing duty on import of masks, ventilator and PPE to nil and it was already nil for gloves. Consumers are protected by labelled MRP or by capped MRP, not by duties, Govt fails to realise.”

Ironically, if one imports gloves from Malaysia the duty is zero but if anyone buys from a glove factory in Indian SEZ it’s 11 per cent duty! Why doesn’t Govt reduce duty of gloves to zero from SEZ to give level playing field to glove manufacturers there and help consumers if that is intention of reducing duties? Nath remarked.

Nath suggested that India should take a cue from Japan like Japanese Govt has announced package of $2.2 billion for Japanese industry to relocate their plants from China to Japan and $200 million to other countries outside of Japan to maintain their healthcare security. India should offer to share ½ and subsidise $100 million to invite them to India if we want Make in India.”

Govt of India needs to take similar bold policy decisions towards ending over 80-90 per cent import dependence forced upon us and an ever increasing import bill of over Rs 38,837 crore, expedite steps for patients’ protection, stronger quality and safety regulations, judicious price controls to make medical devices and quality treatment accessible and affordable and promote indigenous manufacturing.

“It is well known that our own manufacturers had become traders and importers as it was more convenient and during the last two months they had returned to boost domestic manufacturing. With this decision, these businessmen will once again start importing, as why bother to Make in India when there is more money in opportunistic trading?” added Nath.

While we are pleased and grateful that Govt of India did not relent to importers lobbying pressure on rolling back price caps earlier decided for items like stents and are still hopeful that GoI will review this notification and make necessary changes to safeguard ‘Make in India’ by ensuring that quality of imports are verified, no second hand equipments is allowed as a dumping ground and for MRP (or capped MRP) label to be on the imported mask and PPE,” stated Nath.

Vishwaprasad Alva, Founder and Managing Director, Skanraysaid, “For the ventilators, the most important thing is to utilise the full capacity of production within the country and import to fill the gap as quickly as possible, there is no need to play around with customs duty since the purchases are all from the Govt and in any case the duty collected or exempted is from the Govt to the Govt and has no impact.”

“In case of ventilators of the 11 manufacturers that we have, could have possibly been 20 if pre-owned (second hand) imports that constitute 30-40 per cent of markets were not allowed; these manufacturers could have been possibly more than double their current size and India possibly would not have needed to push panic buttons to call in auto makers to fill in or for fund manager to line up to support their rapid expansion,” Nath  remarked.

Sudhir Reddy, Lesure Industries, makers of Sanisfy Masks and infection control products, Chennai said, “This decision has severely impacted the Indian manufacturers who are already squeezed between price-cap on the MRP and cost-escalation of the raw material. The Government must now levy floor-price to the imported goods and also consider giving subsidy, tax holiday, GST exemption and sops for the domestic medical device manufacturers.”

 “Make in India of medical devices is already suffering and exempting duty on import of medical devices would place Indian manufacturing at a further competitive disadvantage, this is the general mood of the local industry, though we do realise the need to import to augment manufacturing,” said Dr GSK Velu, Managing Director, Trivitron.

FICCI and CII in the greater interest of the country should have also asked for MRP of masks and PPE to be capped. But only AiMeD from the beginning has been asking for prices of all devices to be regulated by capping trade margin over import landed price or MRP to be capped and even now AiMeD’s masks manufacturers and dealers are asking for MRP of N95 masks to be capped.

“Importers lobby is least concerned about making healthcare affordable for Indian consumers and Indian Medical Device Industry nor for job losses of skilled and unskilled workers but thinks only for protecting their own profits,” said Nath.

“Move of importing medical devices is understandable as this will help in shortening the gap of demand and supply. But we are worried with exemptions on duty as this will hurt the zeal of Indian entrepreneurs who are working hard for the success of Make in India,” said Dr Sanjiiiv Relhan, Chairman, PWMAI (Preventive Wear Manufacturer Association of India) who are a group of PPE coverall / kit, masks, gowns and surgical drape manufacturer.

 “It takes a country’s best of the brilliant minds to manufacture a complex life saving machine like a ventilator. Govt’s decision to remove custom duty will kill Make in India supporters and its future brilliant aspirants,” said  Ashok Patel, CEO, AB Industries of Max Ventilators.

“We sincerely hope this decision of Govt should not lead to another ANTI Make in India mistake that had led to India already becoming 80-90 per cent import dependent on medical devices. The weakness of India’s healthcare security and of Indian medical system was exposed to all when imports got disrupted from China for over two months in February and March. Had the Indian medical device industry been more stronger and robust and better protected, the manufacturers of masks and PPE kits would have been more modernised, more automated and better placed to ramp up capacities to feed India and even other countries.” said Nath.

Association of Indian Medical Devices IndustryCIICOVID-19duty-free importsFICCIMake In Indiamedical devicesN95 masksPPERajiv Nath
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