After days of wandering and thousands of deaths, the Centre today finally presented a blueprint, in what looked like a plan on how to acquire and transport oxygen to the regions of the country that need it most, from regions which were surplus.
The plan also included setting up of manufacturing units, import and also of converting cylinders used for other gases to oxygen cylinders.
Susmita Deora, from the Ministry of Health, showed the Supreme Court Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, a Powerpoint presentation on medical oxygen-related issues for COVID management.
She said, “The presentation shows statistical data on production and supply status of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO). There is enhanced production of oxygen in the country from about 6,000 MTs per day in August, 2020 to about 9,000 MTs per day, as on date. New oxygen plants were commissioned in Modinagar (Inox) and Pune (Air liquide). High concentration of Oxygen sources exist in steel plants on the eastern side, with substantial stock of oxygen.
“Demand for medical oxygen is mostly concentrated in the west (Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan), North (UP, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab) and central India (MP, Chattisgarh). Hence, there is heavy pressure on few facilities in the north and west, such as Air Liquide Panipath, Inox Barotiwala, Inox Modinagar and Inox Bhiwadi. Besides, the facilities within Maharastra and Karnataka are also under heavy pressure, Ms Deora continued.
“To meet the demand, a supply plan for oxygen has been planned, wherein states are mapped to oxygen sources and quantity specified within a rolling plan.
Oxygen Supply Plan
“Initially, the allotment of medical oxygen (MO) was based on the direction of EG2; projection for high burden states were coordinated by MOHFW with states, based on data on active cases and resultant demand for MO. Supply Plan developed by DPIIT consultatively with concerned states, MOHFW. M/o Steel, MHA, PESO, manufacturers and AIIGMA.
“Initial order for supply plan was issued on April 15 for 12 high burden states; subsequently, it has been reviewed and revisited as cases have increased, in consultation with stakeholders.”
Movement of MO from east to other parts of the country planned through a judicious mix of various available modes: By road – both loaded & empty containers. By rail – both loaded & empty containers. By Air – empty containers to supply points.
Road routes such as: Bhilai to MP, Bokaro to Bihar, JH and MP, Rourkela to UP.
“UP has placed trackers in the tankers to ensure that tankers are moving. ISO containers are getting added and likely routes where deployment is planned: Jamsedpur-Delhi; Durgapur-Delhi; Jamshedpur-Bhopal; Rourkela-Bhopal.”
Ms Deora shared the movement plan from east using air routes by showing some examples.
That was when Justice Chandrachud again asked, this time to Deora, “Why only 480 MTs have been supplied to Delhi, if they are asking for 700 MTs?”
Ms Deora said, “I had conversation with the Chief Secretary of Delhi, but I didn’t get any request from them to the Central Virtual Control Room for more supply of oxygen.”
Justice Chandrachud interjected, “The deficit area for oxygen is Delhi, Karnataka and Andra Pradesh.”
Deora then showed how the Centre has enhanced the capacity of cryogenic tanks, tankers and Medical Oxygen Cylinders.
“Issue licences to industrial gas manufactures to manufacture medical oxygen was given. Permitting conversion of cylinders/ tankers meant for other gases (nitrogen/ argon/ LNG) for storage and distribution.
Key policy intervention:
“Enhanced production of LMO in steel plants. Enhance availability of oxygen from steel plants due to reduction in safety stock requirements from 3.5 days to 0.5 days. Oxygen units in steel plants have commenced operating 24×7. Tender floated to import 50,000 MT. Augmentation of availability of cylinders.”
Easing Transportation bottlenecks:
“Judicious use of roads/ rail/ air.”
Commissioning of PSA plants:
“162 approved – to be commissioned by June; another 1,000 plus have been approved (MOHFW initiative).”