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Sunday, May 09, 2021

For lack of oxygen, units making oxygen cylinders shut down

The manufacturers are a harried lot, saying they are getting "hundreds of requests" for oxygen cylinders on a daily basis. Their existing orders from the Central Government, state governments and from hospitals nationwide are stuck.

Written by Ritu Sarin
New Delhi | Updated: May 5, 2021 8:23:39 am
while the MHA issued instructions for exempting cylinder manufacturers from the ban, state authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), were not executing these orders. (Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

IT seems like a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. The ban on industrial oxygen has had a significant fallout: over the past 10 days, production has come to a halt in the country’s largest oxygen cylinder manufacturing units, mostly in Gandhidham, Gujarat.

Reason: these cylinder-manufacturing units were included in the ban on use of industrial oxygen and despite a Ministry of Home Affairs “clarification” on April 27 that liquid oxygen should be supplied to oxygen-cylinder manufacturers, the ban is yet to be lifted.

Representatives of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association (AIIGMA) said that the clutch of large units located in the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Gandhidham, Kutch, account for over two-thirds of the country’s oxygen cylinder production, and the continuing ban was only making the oxygen cylinder shortage more acute.

Speaking to The Indian Express, AIIGMA president Saket Tiku said: “During the second wave of the Covid crisis, the demand of oxygen in the state of Gujarat has shot up between 1,200-1,500 metric tonnes (MT) a day. And the collective requirement of the cylinder plants in the state is minuscule in comparison. It is just 11 MT a day. This has been red-flagged at the highest level in Government but critical plants still remain shut.”

Explained

Ban lifted but only on paper

Home Ministry clarified April 27 that liquid oxygen should be supplied to oxygen-cylinder manufacturers. But the government in Gujarat, where the manufacturing hub is, has not yet implemented it. Units said it’s a “desperate” situation.

The manufacturers are a harried lot, saying they are getting “hundreds of requests” for oxygen cylinders on a daily basis. Their existing orders from the Central Government, state governments and from hospitals nationwide are stuck.

According to Sarang Gandhe, the Marketing Manager of Everest Kanto Cylinder Ltd, the largest cylinder manufacturer in the SEZ, the situation is “desperate.”

“We have a production capacity of around 35,000 cylinders a month but are being forced to cancel orders,” he said. “There are states like Orissa, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh that depend on us for cylinders but our plant is shuttered. The Government is now importing oxygen cylinders at three or four times our rates.”

Family members of COVID-19 patients wait to fill their empty cylinders with medical oxygen outside an oxygen filling centre, at Bhogal, in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

According to him, while the MHA issued instructions for exempting cylinder manufacturers from the ban, state authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), were not executing these orders.

When contacted, Manoj Das, Additional Chief Secretary to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said: “Our first priority is to give available oxygen to (Covid) patients; especially, those needing oxygen support…We are just barely managing somehow. As soon as we get additional allocation, we would definitely like to help them. We are working with them.”

The owners of another large cylinder plant, Rama Cylinders Private Limited, said they have a production capacity of 50,000 oxygen cylinders a month and a “technical delay” has tied their hands during an emergency. Said Managing Director Vashu Ramsinghani: “We have large volume orders from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Union Health Ministry and from hospitals all over the country. We have made representations to the Chief Minister’s Office and the situation is one of panic. ”

His son, Amit Ramsinghani, Executive Director, said: “All we need is 3 MT of oxygen a day to run two cylinder plants. Hundreds of emails and frantic calls are coming but our plants are shut.” —(with ENS, Ahmedabad)

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