Amid tussle with states, Centre orders ‘uninterrupted’ supply of oxygen across country
The Centre directed states to ensure uninterrupted production and supply of medical oxygen and its transportation along inter-state borders on Thursday, the day Prime Minister Narendra Modi also chaired a high-level meeting to review oxygen supply across the country.
In its order, the Centre said the district magistrate and superintendent of police of the district concerned will be held responsible if there is any violation.
The directive under the stringent Disaster Management Act 2005 was issued by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla in the wake of reports that some states blocked supply of medical oxygen to other states amid sudden spike in coronavirus cases and demand for it.
At the review meeting, Modi asked top officials to work rapidly on increasing oxygen production, boosting speed of distribution and using innovative ways to provide oxygen support to health facilities.
Modi also said that states must act against any hoarding of oxygen and directed officials to ensure that the oxygen supply to various states happens in a smooth, unhindered manner and called for fixing responsibility with the local administration in cases of obstruction.
The meeting also discussed ways and means to boost oxygen availability amid demands from many states for an increase in its supply.
Bhalla said the availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen is an important prerequisite for managing moderate and severe cases of Covid-19 and with the increasing cases, the medical oxygen supply will need to keep pace with the requirements of the states and union territories.
"Therefore, to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country for management of Covid-19 patients, in exercise of powers conferred under section of the DM Act, the undersigned, in the capacity as chairperson, National Executive Committee, hereby directs the state and Union Territory governments and state and Union Territory authorities to ensure the following measures within their areas of jurisdiction," the home secretary said.
The order said there should be no restriction 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.
“No restrictions shall be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit the oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the state and the union territory in which they are located.
There shall be free movement of oxygen carrying vehicles into the cities, without any restriction of timings, while also enabling inter-city supply without any restriction,” it said.
“No authority shall attach the oxygen carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular district or area,” it further said.
Supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those (nine specified industries) exempted by the government, is prohibited from April 22, 2021 and till further orders, according to the directive.
The order said that the states and union territories shall strictly abide by the supply plan of medical oxygen prepared by Empowered Group-I and as revised from time-to-time.
The district magistrates, deputy commissioners and senior superintendents of police, superintendents of police, deputy commissioners of police will be personally liable for implementation of the above directions, it said.
Modi in his meeting discussed ways and means to boost oxygen availability amid demands from many states for an increase in its supply, and was told that the supply of life-saving gas to states has been steadily increasing.
Railways is being used for rapid and non-stop long-distance transport of tankers,a statement said.
The first rake has reached from Mumbai to Vizag to transport 105 MT of the liquid medical oxygen. Similarly, empty oxygen tankers are also being air-lifted to oxygen suppliers to reduce one-way journey time in oxygen supply.
The prime minister was informed that an elaborate exercise is being done in coordination with states to find their demand for oxygen and ensure adequate supply accordingly, the statement said.
Various measures are being undertaken to rapidly increase the availability of cryogenic tankers through conversion of nitrogen and argon tankers, import and airlifting of tankers as well as manufacturing them, it added.