Press Trust of india

COVID-19: Kashmir residents make own masks to battle shortage of protective gear

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By Sheikh Suhail

Srinagar:  A PhD student, a fashion designer and a 10-year-old girl have come forward to produce enough masks for the residents of Kashmir Valley after they found that there was inadequate number of protective gears to tackle the deadly coronavirus.

Meet Bilal Ahmad Malla, who was selected for a PhD programme in Physical Education in a university of Madhya Pradesh.

The 30-year-old student, a resident of Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir, was supposed to join the Rabindranath Tagore University, but had to abort his plans due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Instead of concentrating on his studies, Malla has chosen to make around 40-50 masks daily and later distributes these free of cost.

“I do not want anything. I am doing my bit for the sake of Allah. Let Allah have mercy on all of us,” he told PTI.

“I had a sewing machine at home, so I thought why not  utilise the same for something productive. However, for the first couple of days, I could only make about a dozen masks. I faced difficulties as it was something I had not done before,” he said.

It was his sister – who works at the machine for some stitching works — who gave Malla some lessons at the craft. His father, who is into fruit business, also lent his hand.

“My sister helped me and at times, my father also pitched in. My father does ironing of the masks. I now make around 40-50 masks a day,” Malla said.

He first distributed the masks among his neighbours, and as the word of mouth spread, he started receiving inquiries from the neighbouring villages.

“Several trusts and volunteer organisations have approached me and I provide them the masks without charging  anything,” he said.

However, Malla said procuring raw material was an arduous job in the prevailing circumstances.

“I use my savings for buying the raw material and my father also supports me. However, it is very difficult to get the raw material. The other day I had to travel to (neighbouring) Kulgam (district) to get some material,” he said.

The PhD student said he would continue to make masks till the situation demanded.

“I hope God will have mercy on us and we get rid of this disease very soon. But, till that happens, I will continue doing it,” he said.

Aayat Tanweer (10), a resident of Karan Nagar area of the city here, not only turned to mask making, but also made a video tutorial on how to make them.

“My target is to make 100 masks a week as there are not enough masks available,” she said in a video which went viral on social media leading to appreciation from the netizens.

Sadia Mufti, a popular fashion designer based in Srinagar, is using her resources for making masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mufti, owner of ‘Hangers The Closet’ – an upscale boutique here – turned to mask making after realising there was acute shortage of the protective gear in the valley.

“I went to the market for buying masks for myself, my family and my workers, but I could not get any. There was shortage of masks. The quality was not up to the mark and the masks were costly. That is when I thought I could help by making good quality masks at a very low price,” she told PTI.

The 28-year-old designer turned a part of her Rawalpora residence into a workshop where a team of eight people work hard each day to help increase the supply and availability of the masks.

“I made a few masks and uploaded their pictures on social media. I got a good response and then started making three-layered masks,” she said.

Mufti distributed few masks in her neighbourhood and donated some of them among the needy.

“I was then approached by private companies who have workers here as well as my regular customers,” she said.

The fashion designer now makes protective gear for healthcare workers.

“I started making PPEs which have been approved as well. We have already made around 150 of them and distributed some to a nursing home. I am making masks by using cotton fabric as well as non-woven fabric which can be used as surgical mask,” she said.

Mufti said she is keeping the price of masks and PPE at the very minimum considering the crisis.

“I would like to give them free of cost, but as a young entrepreneur, I have to think about my workers also. They are working under very tough conditions and have even stretched their working hours,” she said.

Having delivered over 2,000 masks, Mufti said while they were working hard to keep up with the demand, there was no compromise on safety and quality.

“I would credit my workers. We are making a thousand masks every day, but there is no compromise on safety and quality. We are putting in more efforts to increase the output as the response of the people, including doctors, has been very good,” she said.

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