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Delhi has sufficient oxygen if cases remain at this level, says INOX Director

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Siddharth Jain mentioned that the spike in cases that the country has seen in the second wave was not predicted, and that only a lockdown can break the chain, unless the entire country’s population is vaccinated.

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi |
Updated: May 5, 2021 12:57:29 am
“Though there are slips, you can get medicines, vaccines a day late, you cannot oxygen an hour late,” said Jain.

Even as the central and Delhi government continue to fight in the Delhi High Court about supply of Oxygen to the capital, Siddharth Jain, Director INOX Air Products, the largest supplier of medical oxygen in the country said that even as other states have faced similar issues, Delhi government was unable to procure the oxygen allocated to them by the centre.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Jain also mentioned that the spike in cases that the country has seen in the second wave was not predicted, and that only a lockdown can break the chain, unless the entire country’s population is vaccinated.

“Though there are slips, you can get medicines, vaccines a day late, you cannot oxygen an hour late,” said Jain. He stated that “Delhi has got sufficient quantity,” of medical oxygen, “assuming the cases remain this way”.

“This problem that Delhi is facing has been faced by every other state as well. But no other state is in court other than Delhi. He mentioned that states like Punjab and Madhya Pradesh too “don’t have any manufacturing capacity like Delhi”.

But as the centre “maps all the manufacturing plants across India” and allocates oxygen based on demand, “the job of going and getting that oxygen from the plant is up to the state to talk to the plant. It wasn’t the job of the centre to sit and actually pick up the product and give it to each state.”

He said that the states have to help with the “logistics to move” the oxygen, as the manufacturers cannot ask for the assistance of the Air Force or create green corridors. “It is the state’s responsibility to execute at a micro-level.”

When asked if Delhi had the adequate supply but it wasn’t able to procure, Jain said, “that’s 100 per cent accurate”.

“When it comes to Delhi, there certainly was an unfortunate period of past two weeks, of lack of maybe communication or centre and state, I don’t know what exactly the issue was. But the shape of the spike is as close to vertical as possible. You need time to react. The Delhi cases only began in the past two weeks, give or take. Nobody calculated, not the centre not the state, on how much oxygen will be required.”

Jain added, “we are not at war of centre vs delhi, we are war at virus that originated in China, let’s work together as a team”.

INOX, he said, is meant to provide 160 tonnes of medical oxygen to Delhi, which he said he has done. “There were other people who had not met 100 per cent of their volumes, and over the past three days, I have seen them ramp up as well”. According to him, Delhi is not getting over 450 tonnes of medical oxygen every day, “and going forward it’s going to be much smoother certainly”.

While Delhi has around 20,000 to 30,000 cases in a day, “it certainly isn’t the most infected city in India”. He said Maharashtra’s demand for oxygen is 1500 tonnes a day, while for Delhi it is 500 tonnes.

All the manufacturers, he said are working at beyond their maximum capacities for months. “In the past 30 days the total manufacturing capacity of India in one month, has gone from 7200 tonnes a day up to 9200 tonnes a day”. He mentioned that the consumption is around 7500 tonnes per day.

He said that with all the steps taken, and government having used “all the tools available with them” in another two weeks there should not be any shortage of oxygen faced by any state.

The country’s hospital infrastructure, he said, “is very strong across the country, but when you’re going to get hit by a virus which happens once in hundred years, and which is taken the world by storm, it’s a little hard to pre-empt and expect to be ready for such an onslaught”.

“From an oxygen manufacturer’s perspective, we were fully ready with the supply chain and everything to take care of such eventualities.” He added that “making oxygen is very easy,” but “what’s really hard is delivering oxygen to the patient”.

There were a total of 1200 specialised cryogenic tanks to carry oxygen across the country before Covid. He said an equal number of containers were available for Nitrogen and Argon, and government has allowed them to be converted for transporting oxygen.

“Covid is a nationwide problem, covid comes in waves,” Jain said, adding that the first wave came to Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, moving to Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

“As we have seen empirical evidence across the globe, Covid goes up with a spike and comes down. India being such a large country, is seeing spikes in different states at diff times, which is taken the national number higher and higher, and we are not seeing that turn and come down.”

Jain emphasised, “Such waves will continue, till such time we break the chain and go for a lockdown. If we don’t, you can’t stop the wave, or unless we all get 100% vaccinated.”

He was also part of the empowered group for oxygen allocation that the government set-up in April last year.

“During the original estimates in April, the government had actually made scenarios with the kind of active cases that we are facing today and they had made estimations a very close to the number that we are consuming today in medical oxygen.” However, Jain said, “people who are part of the industry never believed” as based on empirical evidence of other nations, “none of them had any issue of Oxygen” as nowhere did it go up by ten times.

“We did not go into microplanning of state-wide demand. It was done for nation-wide demand. What is our production capacity, do we have the ability to move the product. And the answer for all of the above, yes we have it.”

The highest demand states are Maharashtra, Gujarat and UP, he said, and mentioned that Odisha and Jharkhand are the surplus states.

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