May 5, 2021 11:28:31 pm
Covid has crept into the Punjab control room — which was set up to manage oxygen supplies to hospitals and patients ten days ago — infecting one officer and prompting the state government to deploy five IAS officers as a shadow team. The control room has been set up in Udyog Bhawan to manage and augment oxygen supplies amid rising cases of Covid and patients often struggling to get supply of the life-saving gas.
Officials said the alternate team of officers was forced to take over the operations of the control room after IAS officer and Punjab Employment Generation and Training director, Harpreet Singh Sudan, one of the members of the original team, tested positive. After Sudan tested positive, all the members of the original team were home quarantined and were told to assist the new team while working from home.
While Sudan, after testing positive, was replaced by IAS officer Showkat Ahmad Parry, the other four officers — IAS officers Rahul Tewari, Abhinav Trikha, Pradeep Kumar Agrawal and Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officer Sukhjeet Pal Singh — were replaced by IAS officers Ajoy Sharma, Vijay Namdeorao Zade, Mohammad Tayyab and Vipul Ujwal.
On Tuesday, Punjab’s personnel department circulated an “order of the Governor of Punjab” to various officials, detailing the replacements in case the officer/s became unavailable. “To ensure that the functioning of this control room is not impacted due to any of the officers becoming unavailable for duty, it is ordered that the following officers shall take over the charge from the officer mentioned against their names, in case the officer becomes unavailable.” read the order, with a replacement description of the officers.
“Apart from the above officers”, the order further noted, “Parveen Kumar Thind, IAS, is put on reserve for the smooth functioning of the Covid control room.”
A member of the team, who was home quarantined, said that after the control room was established, the demand for oxygen in the state had seen a rise by two and a half times within about ten days. “The number of daily patients requiring oxygen support jumped from 4000 to more than 9000 in these ten days,” he said.
There is a demand of 300 metric tonnes of oxygen daily, the majority of which is “from six metro districts” — Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Bathinda, and Mohali,” said a government functionary, adding that the actual consumption requirement though was 260 to 270 metric tonnes. The projected demand was always higher by ten to 15 per cent to cope with emergency situations, he explained.
The functionary said that while 60 to 70 metric tonnes of oxygen was being produced in the units across the state after industrial oxygen was diverted for medical oxygen, the Punjab government was facing hurdles in obtaining 195 metric tonnes of oxygen allocated to it from other states.
Out of the 195 metric tonnes, the maximum is from Bokaro in Jharkhand from where the state government has been allocated a quota of 90 metric tonnes. The government is faced with a peculiar problem in ferrying this oxygen, as a majority of its tankers — 14 out of 15 available — was not being allowed on the ‘Oxygen Express’ for not meeting the height standards. As a result, the Punjab-bound tankers are being forced to take the road route which is taking them 3 days to reach the state instead of 30 hours by train. Apart from this, a state government official said that that there were other issues like tripping of plants, lesser availability of tankers, among others, which is preventing them from getting the allocated supply from other nearby states as well.
The Punjab government has been allocated a daily quota of 15 metric tonnes and ten metric tonnes of oxygen from Roorkee and Dehradun, in Uttarakhand, respectively, 15 metric tonnes from Panipat in Haryana and 60 metric tonnes from a unit in Baddi in Himachal Pradesh.
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