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Centre cracks down on curbs to oxygen movement

Workers fill cylinders with medical oxygen at a plant, in Amaravati. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Centre invoked the Disaster Management Act on Thursday making the district magistrates and senior superintendent of police personally liable to ensure unhindered inter-State movement of vehicles carrying medical oxygen and not restrict the supply to a particular State where the oxygen plant is located. 

The order comes hours after Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia alleged that the governments of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh were blocking the supply of oxygen to Delhi. Delhi procures medical oxygen from neighbouring districts in these States.

Also read: ‘Sufficient stock of medical oxygen available in hospitals in Salem’

The Union Home Secretary is the Chairman of the National Executive Committee under the DM Act, 2005. The 2005 legislation was invoked for the first time in March 2020 to curtail the COVID-19 pandemic after it came into being in wake of the Tsunami disaster. 

The order said, “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; No restrictions shall be imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit the oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the State/ UT in which they are located.”

The order added that 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 and “no authority shall attach the oxygen carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular district(s) or area.”

It prohibited supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the Government. 

It asked the States and Union Territories that they strictly abide by the supply plan of medical oxygen prepared by Empowered Group-II 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,” the order said. The DM Act has a provision of imprisonment for one year if the offence of the government is proved. Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code also prescribes one-month imprisonment to such officers. 

The order added that 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 UTs.

“...Medical oxygen is an essential public health commodity and any impediment in the supplies of medical oxygen in the country may critically impact the management of patients suffering from COVID-19 disease in other parts of the country...And whereas, Empowered Group-II (EG-I), is mandated for coordinating medical logistics, including medical oxygen. EG-II has reviewed the supply of oxygen for industrial use in order to divert the same to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen in the country and save precious lives,” it said. 

It said the EG-II has recommended the prohibition of the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers from April 22 till further orders, with the exception of nine specified industries. 

“EG-II in consultation with States/UTs and oxygen manufactures etc., prepares supply plan, which is required to be followed by all States/UTs and all the agencies concerned,” it said,

The oxygen supply plan was circulated by Health Ministry to all the States on April 21.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 7:20:49 AM |

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