New Delhi: At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is raging across certain parts of India, thuggery involving Covid-19 essentials including lifesaving oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators and medicines is at an all-time high.

The Sunday Guardian reached out to multiple people for oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators and medicines over the past one week, but every vendor that this correspondent spoke to was ready to supply these essentials only at an exorbitant price, while such items went completely missing from the regular market.

Oxygen cylinders of 45-47 litres are being sold in the National Capital Region, including Gurgaon and Noida for an exorbitant price ranging from anywhere between Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 per cylinder, while the actual cost of these cylinders ranges somewhere between Rs 8,500 to Rs 10,000.

Oxygen concentrators that have become an important lifesaving machine for many Covid-19 patients are being sold in the black market  for four to eight times of the actual price.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to at least 15 such dealers of oxygen concentrators in Delhi-NCR and all of them quoted a price of these ma- chines to be somewhere between Rs 75,000 to Rs 180,000. While the original price of these oxygen concentrators ranges from somewhere between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 depending on the specifications. For example, a Philips Oxygen Concentrator, which is priced at Rs 53,000 at normal times is being sold for Rs 180,000 in the black market. While the Chinese counterpart of these machines that are available somewhere between Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 are being sold for Rs 75,000 to Rs 90,000.

Not only are the prices of these machines inflated in the black market, even certain online platforms have inflated the price of these products in order to mint money.

Some of the dealers of the oxygen concentrators that this correspondent spoke to said, “Sir, what can we do? There is a huge demand and the supply is not there. We are getting like 100 calls a day and with limited stock we have to prioritise who we want to give to. And if some extra money is spent on saving someone’s life what is wrong in it? We also have no option; we are also buying at a high price,” said a person who is currently dealing in oxygen concentrators in Delhi.

Oxygen cylinder dealers are openly indulging in black marketing of this life saving air. The dealers that this correspondent spoke to said that the demand was too high and the supply was too low. “Economics ko samajhiye sir, jab demand high ho and supply kaam ho tabh price toh badhta hi hain. Hum kya karein? Sab koi itne main bech raha hain,” an oxygen cylinder dealer from Gurgaon told this correspondent.

Even for medicines like Remdesivir and Toclizumab, families of patients who are admitted in hospital with Covid-19 are running from pillar to post as these medicines are just not available at regular pharmacies.

Regular cries of help on social media for these medicines are giving sleepless nights to volunteers and families of these patients who are trying to arrange these important drugs being used in the treatment of Covid-19.

The price of Remdisivir injection which is priced at Rs 5,000 for one dose in the regular market is being sold from anywhere between Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 per dose.

This correspondent spoke to the next of kin of a patient admitted in a private hospital in Delhi who had been running from pillar to post for five vials of Remdisivir injection. The patient’s attendant said, “We have been trying for the last 12 hours to get this injection. But it is not available anywhere in Delhi. We have tried all the big pharmacies in Delhi, it is not available anywhere. My brother put out a post on social media through which we got the contact of some dealers but they were asking for Rs 20,000 per dose. This is too high, but it is important to save life. So we finally got it from him.”

Some thugs and fraudsters active on social media are also preying on gullible people.

The Sunday Guardian learnt about several such cases happening across Delhi-NCR since the last two weeks. Many families reached out to this correspondent with tales of being duped by fraudsters who promised to either deliver them oxygen cylinders or oxygen concentrators, but vanished after receiving money in their accounts.

“I have paid Rs 50,000 in advance for an oxygen concentrator for which I got a lead about this person who called himself Rahul on social media. He said he will need an advance amount of Rs 50,000 only after which he will be able to dispatch the machine. My mother is sick and needs oxygen, we did not verify much because the lead on social media was posted as verified and he was very polite. He said that the next day it will be delivered. I live in West Delhi and he said his warehouse was near Mayapuri and it sounded genuine. But soon after the payment was made, Rahul stopped taking our calls. We repeatedly tried calling him but no response. His number started to come as switched off within the next couple of hours. These people are vultures,” Tarini told The Sunday Guardian.

Even plasma is being sold in Delhi. Plasma therapy is given to critically ill patients to help them recover from Covid-19. The plasma is taken from a Covid-19 recovered individual. But plasma is being sold for Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 by individuals who have recovered, and many of them are also indulging in fraud.

A patient’s next of kin told this correspondent that they found a plasma donor for their father. The donor agreed to charge Rs 40,000 for the same, but vanished after taking the entire amount as advance. “He stopped taking our calls and never showed up. My father is in a critical condition and is still battling for his life. However, we did find a genuine donor and gave him plasma therapy.” Vibhuti, the patient’s daughter, told The Sunday Guardian.