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Coronavirus | Amit Shah reviews oxygen shortage in States

Union Home Ministry warns non-compliance with High Court order on supply for Delhi would invite action.

As hospitals in Delhi continued to grapple with oxygen shortage, the Centre again shot off a letter to the States saying non-compliance with the Delhi High Court’s order would invite action for contempt of Court, and also invite action under Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Indian Penal Code.

On his return from a political campaign in West Bengal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday reviewed the COVID-19 situation and oxygen shortage in various States, directed that States compile a list of oxygen plants in districts along with the installed capacity, and take action to revive plants that were shut.

The High Court had directed on Thursday that oxygen be supplied to Delhi from all plants as per the allocation order of April 21. An empowered group under the Central government had allocated 480 MT of medical oxygen to Delhi.

However, the court observed that on Wednesday that only 200-250 MT of oxygen had been received till it passed the orders.

The court said that 140 MT of medical oxygen that was to be supplied by the Air Liquide plant at Panipat in the neighbouring State of Haryana had been “obstructed by the local authorities”.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the court that Haryana government officials were persuaded to abide by the allocation order and were also reminded of the April 22 order under the Disaster Management Act, which asked States to not block oxygen supply to other States.

The court order said, “Piyush Goel, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs is also present during the hearing, and he states that the officials in the State of Haryana were persuaded to abide by the allocation order and the order dated 22.04.2021 passed under the Disaster Management Act. Thereafter some oxygen has been released from Air Liquide, Panipat Plant. However, the position does not appear to be completely satisfactory and obstructions appear to continue.”

Reiterating the court’s order, the MHA’s fresh letter on Friday to the States said that “supplies from all the oxygen producing plants is made, as per the allocation order dated 21.04.2021, and transportation takes place without any hindrance”.

The letter stated that the court also directed to “ensure adequate security to the lorries transporting oxygen and its non-obstruction on the way. ..court has also directed for creation of a special corridor for immediate transportation of oxygen”.

Later, a press release from the MHA said that the Centre had prohibited supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, excepting a few essential sectors, through an April 18 order. “This has resulted in significant augmentation of supply of medical oxygen. Steps are being taken to further reduce consumption of industrial oxygen by industries, which will augment the supply of oxygen for medical purpose,” the MHA said.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also shot off a letter to the States to ready exclusive corridors for transportation of oxygen and to treat such vehicles as ambulances.

Mr. Bhalla’s letter said that keeping in view the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, the allocation of oxygen to States needs to be rationalised.

The Home Secretary asked the States to send a status report on the list of all oxygen plants in districts that were either in use or shut down.

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