Raise oxygen output, PM tells officials; govt invokes DMA to ensure supply
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday (April 22) suggested a three-way strategy to augment oxygen supply to the needy states following an unprecedented surge in COVID cases across the country. The prime minister said the focus should be on increasing the production of oxygen, increasing its speed and distribution and utilising innovative ways to provide oxygen support to health facilities.
The Centre has issued orders under the Disaster Management Act that no state can hold up supplies of oxygen. The order issued by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said: “No restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the states and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles.”
Modi’s views came at a meeting attended by principal secretary to the Prime Minister PK Mishra, health secretary Rajesh Bhushan, home secretary Ajay Bhalla and officials of Niti Aayog and other ministries.
The officials informed the Prime Minister about an elaborate exercise being carried out in coordination with states to identify their demands of the gas and ensure supplies.
“Against the present demand from 20 states of 6,785 MT/ day of Liquid Medical Oxygen, government of India has from April 21, allocated 6,822 MT/ day to these states,” a statement added.
Modi told officials to ensure the supplies to states are kept in a smooth manner. There is a need to fix responsibility with the local administration in the case of any obstruction, he said, adding state governments should come down heavily on hoarding of oxygen.
The Centre is trying to rapidly ramp up the availability of cryogenic tankers through conversion of nitrogen and argon tanks, import and airlifting of tankers as well as manufacturing them, the statement said.
In a related development, the Delhi High Court on Thursday (April 22) directed the Central government to create a separate corridor for transporting much-needed oxygen tankers for COVID patients and provide security cover to the supplies.
The court said the Centre should ensure that Delhi receives its full 480 metric tonne quota of oxygen. It said non-compliance “will be seen very seriously as this is likely to result in grave loss of life.”