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India Fights Back Pandemic: An All-Out Effort to Supply the Medical Oxygen to Needy States

Shortage in supply of liquid medical Oxygen can be seen everywhere COVID-19 cases have spiked in the second wave.

As the country fights with all available resources, the universe of leaders, influences and opinion makers is divided to two clear groups with diametrically opposite approaches to the crisis. One, who are putting all the efforts to address the woes of citizens. Other, who want to be part of the ecosystem that creates panic, and anguish even though they are in the position of managing the pandemic and taking responsibility and corrective measures for the shortcomings we face.

While the likes of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal fall in the latter category, we will now examine the slew of mammoth efforts being put to address the situation on a war-footing.

Seamless Transport of Medical Oxygen Ensured by MHA

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has invoked the Disaster Management Act, 2005 to facilitate hassle-free movement of Liquid Medical Oxygen tankers between the States.

The order states, “no restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the States and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles.”

It should be noted that large liquid Oxygen manufacturing units are concentrated in few states. These States and the adjoining States want to reserve safety stock to meet their demand amidst the raging infections. There were reports of States hoarding medical oxygen or restricting its supply to other States. The MHA order assumes significance in this backdrop.

It has paved way for the Police Force to take action in this regard.

Monitoring at the Highest Level

On April 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a high-level meeting to review the medical oxygen supply across the country and discuss ways and means to further augment its availability.

These are the figures that indicated progress in addressing the issue.

  • Against the present demand of 6,785 MT/ day of Liquid Medical Oxygen, from 20 states, the Government of India has allocated 6,822 MT/ day to these states from April 21 itself.
  • It was noted that in the last few days, availability of Liquid Medical Oxygen has been increased by about 3,300 MT/ day with contributions from private and public steel plants, industries, oxygen manufacturers as well as through prohibition of supply of the same for non-essential industries.
  • The PM spoke about the need to fix responsibility with the local administration in cases of obstruction of movement or distribution of the same. He also asked ministries to explore innovative ways to increase production & supply of medical oxygen.
Indian Air Force Pitched In

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is assisting in airlifting of empty liquid medical Oxygen tankers and containers for refilling. Upon refilling they may travel through road and railways. But airlifting empty tankers/containers to destinations saves the overall turnaround time.

Oxygen Express

As reported earlier, Indian Railways Oxygen Express initiative is connecting the states with the plants in industrial belt to meet their demand of liquid medical oxygen.

Action at Local Level

While there are some states which are trying to solely blame the Centre in an evident cover up of their unpreparedness, there have been some efforts at the local level that need acknowledgement and may serve as a template to other administrations as well. Here is one from Surat.

Import of Oxygen Generation Plants

The Centre has moved to procure medical oxygen generation plants that can be set up in the hospital premises itself.

Amidst all the anguish, the fact that the present medical Oxygen crisis is largely because of supply constraints should be noted. Liquid Oxygen plants are concentrated close to mining industries in states like Jharkhand and Odisha. When there is a sudden surge of demand from far away states, it takes time to put logistics in place which needs coordination among various departments of both the Centre and the State. States which should have created sound medical Oxygen supply units in local hospital premises clearly failed on that front. However, the Centre, without passing the buck has risen to the occasion to invest ample energy and resources for easing the supply of Liquid Medical Oxygen in these times.

You can read more in our article: Blaming PM-Cares Fund for the Shortage in Supply of Medical Oxygen? Consider These Facts