Tamil Nadu

Centre should take immediate call on supplying oxygen to State: HC

The Madras High Court on Thursday ordered that the Centre “should take immediate steps” to ensure adequate supply of oxygen to Tamil Nadu so that the reserves in the State do not run out by Saturday, as apprehended by Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan and Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation Managing Director P. Umanath. “It is critical, and requires the attention of the highest offices so that lives are not lost for want of oxygen,” the court observed.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy passed the interim order on a public interest litigation petition, taken up by the court suo motu, to monitor the measures taken by the government to fight the raging second wave of COVID-19. Immediately after the order was passed, Additional Solicitor General R. Sankaranarayanan informed the court that he had communicated the order to the Union Health Ministry, on phone, without waiting for the order copy.

Senior counsel P. Wilson, also a DMK Rajya Sabha member, urged the court to grant him permission for seeking an urgent hearing of the case on Friday if the Centre does not issue appropriate orders to ensure the seamless supply of oxygen to Tamil Nadu. The Chief Justice agreed to it and said he would be available any time to hear the case, and this was the reason he had chosen to be in Chennai even during the summer vacation for the court.

Oxygen production

Earlier, Mr. Radhakrishnan told the court that Tamil Nadu produces 400 tonnes of oxygen every day. Its requirement now ranges between 400 and 450 tonnes a day, since the number of active cases has increased to 1.28 lakh. Nevertheless, the Centre had, in the beginning, unilaterally fixed the allocation for Tamil Nadu at 220 tonnes and planned to divert the rest of the oxygen to Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Immediately, the State government had objected to it.

The Centre was of the view that Tamil Nadu could get oxygen from Karnataka and Odisha, but the State government pointed out that it was illogical. Therefore, a meeting was held between officials from the Centre and the States of Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, and it was mutually agreed upon in the meeting to allocate 475 tonnes of oxygen a day to Tamil Nadu, after considering the increasing number of cases in the State.

The Health Secretary also told the court that INOX Air Products Private Limited in Sriperumbudur was serving as the lifeline for government and private hospitals in Chennai and parts of Chengalpattu, supplying 150 tonnes of oxygen a day. However, the Centre diverted 60 tonnes of oxygen produced by INOX to the neighbouring States. Of the 60 tonnes, around 35 tonnes were diverted to Telangana and 25 tonnes to southern Andhra Pradesh.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of give and take, Tamil Nadu agreed to continue the supply of 25 tonnes to the southern districts in Andhra Pradesh, which were closer to Chennai. On its part, Telangana was kind enough to give up the supply of 35 tonnes from INOX Sriperumbudur and stated that it would source the supply either from Bellary in Karnataka or from Odisha. This agreement was reached with the mutual consent of all stakeholders, including the Centre.

Apart from this, it was also agreed that Kerala would continue to supply 40 tonnes of oxygen from INOX Kanjikode in Palakkad district to private hospitals in the western and southern districts of Tamil Nadu.

Despite such mutual agreement, the Centre did not release the revised Central allocation plan. Shockingly, a plan released on Thursday did not have any mention about allocations made to Tamil Nadu and Telangana, the Health Secretary told the court.

Pitching in during the submissions, Mr. Umanath said: “The western and southern border districts of Tamil Nadu, which were receiving oxygen from Kerala, have been suddenly deprived of oxygen. We are now facing two problems. One, the diversion from Sriperumbudur is creating acute shortage in the supply in Chennai. We are managing from the reserves, but the situation is going to be acute from day after tomorrow, because the reserves are adequate only for two days.”

“Secondly, the supply from Kanjikode has been totally stopped. Private hospitals in the western and southern districts of Tamil Nadu do not have any other alternative. So they are running to a chaotic situation. We are managing with the cylinders kept in reserve, but they will run out by tomorrow.Our plea is that the plan, agreed to mutually between the Government of India and two other States be published,” he told the Division Bench.


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Printable version | Jun 25, 2021 4:44:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/centre-should-take-immediate-call-on-supplying-oxygen-to-state-hc/article34502718.ece

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