Updated: May 5, 2021 1:52:09 pm
The Central government in an affidavit filed before the Gujarat High Court Monday, in response to a suo motu PIL that the court is hearing on Covid-19, has submitted that not only is it augmenting oxygen supply from all available sources within India, but also “importing oxygen from other countries using not only the diplomatic channels but also personal intervention of the political executive.”
Against a demand of 8,462 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen calculated on basis of active cases, an allocation of 8,410 MT has been made for 22 high-burden states, the affidavit states.
Calculations based on data provided in documents annexed to the affidavit filed by Additional Solicitor General Devang Vyas, suggest at least seven of the high-demand states have been provisioned with only 60 per cent or even less as daily allocation of oxygen vis-a-vis the demand projected for May 5 as per the central government-appointed Empowered Groups (EG). The states include Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir. Kerala has been provisioned only 22 per cent of its projected demand as daily allocation as per the April 30 supply plan.
A data table in the affidavit suggests six states and Union Territories have lifted more oxygen on April 26 than what was allocated. These include Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Rajasthan, West Bengal, and Jammu and Kashmir. Punjab, in fact, saw a reduced allocation from April 28 onwards despite lifting more than its allocated amount of 177 MT on that day.
The Centre, in its affidavit, also submitted that while oxygen demand is a “dynamic figure”, it is revised as per requirement and available supplies to match states’ demand and sourcing of oxygen to the “maximum extent possible”.
Referring to the methodology the Centre uses to arrive at projected demand of oxygen by states, the affidavit states an ‘Empowered Group-I’, comprising Niti Aayog’s Dr V K Paul, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, and Director general of ICMR Dr Balram Bhargava, “on the basis of their Covid management experience and examination of the facts and reports received from the various state hospitals and medical institutes of the country categorised Covid-19 patients in three broad classes where it was determined that 80 per cent patients are “mild cases” and do not require oxygen. Three per cent of cases are severe ICU cases, which require “approximately 24L/min of oxygen”, and another 8.5 per cent cases may require oxygen at the rate of 10L/min.
Based on these estimates, the oxygen requirements of different states, on the basis of their active cases, is being calculated, “which in the estimates of the central government at present is around 8,462 MT”.
“However, since the actual percentage of cases on ICU and non-ICU beds can vary in the states, and also there is variation in the per minute oxygen consumption, it is endeavoured that the demand from the states is considered as the actual requirement and allocation planned accordingly”, the affidavit adds.
So far, a total allocation of 8,410 MT has been made “for 22 high-burden states and UTs based on their demand”.
To arrive at a more realistic oxygen demand, the doubling rate of cumulative active cases is calculated for each state, the Centre affidavit states. Based on the doubling rate, “the number of active cases in the next few days are projected and based on that the oxygen requirement is calculated”.
To further make the projection model realistic, doubling rate is recalculated each day to incorporate the actual number of active cases on the preceding day, since the active caseload is a dynamic number and fluctuates both upwards as well as downwards. Therefore, the projections get changed or updated on a daily basis on the basis of real time, the Centre has submitted.
However, the projections remain unrealistic. For example, as per an annexure in the affidavit, according to the above-mentioned formula, the projection made on April 29 for Gujarat for May 5 is 505.12 MT. Current, as per the Gujarat government’s own admission in an affidavit, it sees a daily demand of approximately 1,190 MT.
The Centre has informed the court that since it took over oxygen allocation, “the allocation was first issued on April 15, 2021, and further revised on April 18, 19, 22, 24, 25, 26 and 27”.
As per the Centre, states were requested “to indicate their projections for requirement for medical oxygen based on expected active cases load by duly factoring in the guidelines issued in this regard by MOHFW”. States were requested to provide these “progressive projections forecast for requirement for medical oxygen as on April 20, 25 and 30, respectively”. These include 12 key states.
Based on the projected requirements “of these critically affected states, 4,880 MT, 5,619 MT and 6,593 MT were mapped in an indicative framework, for the supply of medical oxygen to these 12 states for meeting their projected demand as on April 20, 25 and 30, respectively, and was duly approved vide order dated 15.04.2021”.
However, following the April 15 allocation order, some of the “high Covid-19 burden states” had revised their initial projections for medical oxygen required as on April 20 and additionally, requests for oxygen was also made by three more states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttarakhand — which were not part of the initial list of 12 states.
Among the states who revised their demand projection considerably are Uttar Pradesh (from 400 MT to 800 MT), Delhi (from 300 MT to 700 MT), Rajasthan (from 125 MT to 147 MT) and Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttarakhand, together seeking an additional 825 MT.
Adding that “medical oxygen in any country cannot be unlimited”, the Centre has noted that a revised supply plan for medical oxygen to 15 states for meeting their projected demand as on April 20, was issued in an order dated April 18. However, “certain apprehensions and challenges were communicated by some states” regarding the revised plan. These included states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh.
As per the Centre’s submissions, some major suppliers gave feedbacks on “logistical bottlenecks in transportation” and of “few incidents of local authorities disrupting the supplies to other states. In other words, it was found that the state, where the supply point is situated, would not permit the tanker to carry oxygen to another allocated state for the purpose of using in that state”. Accordingly, based on the detailed deliberations with all the states concerned as well other stakeholders, “certain amendments have been made to the supply plan for medical oxygen to high-burden states in order to effectively address the issues flagged by the states,” the Centre told the court.
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