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Duty-free imports of ventilators will make the prospective manufacturers like the automotive companies, start-ups and others to have a rethink on their investment plans while snuffing out innovation, a top medical device industry official said on Friday.
A price cap on ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Covid-19 pandemic will be more beneficial to the people than an import duty cut, Rajiv Nath, Forum Coordinator, Association of Indian Medical Device Industry (AiMeD) told IANS.
"The coronavirus pandemic has made many engineers to look at designing ventilators. Similarly, several automotive companies and others too announced their interests in getting into the sector. The Central government's decision to cut the import duty will have an impact on innovation and investments," he said.
On Thursday, the Central government allowed duty free imports of various medical items like ventilators, face masks, surgical masks, PPE, Covid-19 test kits and all inputs that go into the manufacturing of these devices.
Nath said manufacturers - old and proposed- will import the items and market them under their own brand while the government's Make in India plan continue to remain on paper.
According to him, the import duty on gloves was already zero.
For the past couple of months, there were no imports of ventilators and other items from China and it has started now, he said, noting that government policy does not allow manufacturing of components within or the full product in India and the country is 80 per cent dependent on imports.
About the ventilator sector in the country, Nath said there are 11 manufacturers and the country could have had 20, had imports of pre-owned/second hand ventilators not been allowed.
"It is strange that imports of second hand automobiles are banned but not second-hand ventilators," he said, while adding that many such imported second-hand ventilators are lying unused for want of spares and a proper service network in the country.
Nath said duty free imports of gloves are allowed from Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam due to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) but if the same person buys the gloves from a factory in the Indian Special Economic Zone, then he has to pay 11 per cent duty.
A level playing field should be there for the glove manufacturers in the country, he said.