Updated: April 24, 2021 5:20:27 am
Amid the continued struggle to supply oxygen to hospitals and allegations of certain states stalling oxygen tankers, the Centre has written to all states to provide security to these vehicles and to treat them as ambulances for quick transport.
Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday also held a meeting over oxygen shortage in the country and issued directions for smooth supply of the same based on requirements of various states, sources said.
“An Expert Group is optimizing and rationalising the allocation of oxygen to various States and UTs, keeping in view the active cases and to reduce time for movement of medical oxygen,” a statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs said.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Friday wrote to all states and UTs, reiterating MHA’s Thursday order where the Centre directed states to strictly abide by the oxygen supply plan chalked out by a central panel and to not stall supply of oxygen to any state.
In its order, MHA had invoked the Disaster Management Act, making wilful inhibition of supply a punishable offence, and made district magistrates and SPs responsible for smooth transport of oxygen tankers.
However, instances have been reported in some districts from different States and UTs, wherein oxygen carrying vehicles have been stopped. Such instances are not only in violations of the aforesaid MHA Order but also inhibits the timely supply of medical oxygen to the allocated State/ UT, and in turn affect treatment of COVID-19 patients,” Bhalla has said in his letter.
He also drew their attention to the Delhi High Court order of Thursday which took note of such instances and gave directions to ensure strict compliance on the oxygen allocation order of the Centre.
“I would therefore, urge you to issue suitable directions, to concerned authorities in your State/ UT, to ensure compliance with the MHA order dated 22.04.2021, of the directions given by the Hon’ble High Court, and to provide adequate security to oxygen transporting vehicles and to make provisions for exclusive corridors for such transportation, treating these vehicles like ambulances,” Bhalla has said in the letter.
In another letter, Bhalla has asked states and UTs to list all the plants in which different types of oxygen is generated and revive the closed ones.
“As you are aware, due to rapid rise in COVID-19 cases, there is a significant surge in the demand for medical oxygen in all parts of the country …It is understood that oxygen generating plants are available in many districts of the country, not necessarily for medical purposes. However, these facilities can be used for supplying oxygen to local hospitals. I would like to request you to have all such facilities mapped immediately. For this, District Collectors/Deputy Commissioners should be asked to list all the plants in which different types of oxygen is generated, including the ones that can be bottled in cylinders, along with the installed capacity,” Bhalla’s letter has said.
In case some of the plants are closed, the letter has said, they should also be listed and necessary action should be taken for their revival.
“I would also like to strongly advise that keeping in view the supply constraints, oxygen allocation to various districts/ cities need to be rationalised, keeping in view the number of active cases. I would, therefore, urge you to take immediate actions on the above suggestions and send an action taken report,” the letter has said.
MHA officials said the ministry is also facilitating movement of medical oxygen across the country as per approved allocation plan. “Indian Air Force has started transporting empty tankers after delivery of oxygen to destination State/ UT to oxygen producing locations to reduce movement time. With a view to make available additional tankers for movement of oxygen, MHA is coordinating lifting of high capacity tankers from abroad, such as Singapore and UAE by Indian Air Force transport planes. Further, Ministry of Railways is running special trains carrying oxygen tankers across the country for faster movement,” the MHA statement said.
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