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Maharashtra may import 25,000 tonnes of oxygen

Amid the shortage of oxygen and Remdesivir in Maharashtra, the state health department has put up a proposal to import 25,000 tonnes of oxygen and 10 lakh vials of Remdesivir, an antiviral drug
By Swapnil Rawal and Faisal Malik, Mumbai
UPDATED ON APR 26, 2021 12:27 AM IST

Amid the shortage of oxygen and Remdesivir in Maharashtra, the state health department has put up a proposal to import 25,000 tonnes of oxygen and 10 lakh vials of Remdesivir, an antiviral drug. The health department officials said that as the number of Covid cases are increasing, they want to keep oxygen and the drug stock ready. Besides that, the state also wants to import oxygen tankers and concentrators.

While Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government has alleged a lack of or delayed assistance from the Centre to Maharashtra in its fight against Covid-19, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday claimed that the state government has not set up oxygen generation plants from the sum allocated to Maharashtra from PM Cares funds.

BJP legislator Prasad Lad said that had the state added these plants, the shortage of oxygen would not have been acute and some lives would have been saved.

“We have sent a proposal to the chief secretary (Sitaram Kunte) to import 25,000 tonnes of oxygen, 10 lakh Remdesivir, oxygen tankers, and oxygen concentrators. A decision on this will be taken by the high-power committee by Monday,” confirmed N Ramaswami, commissioner, health services (Maharashtra).

With 1,750 metric tonnes of supply there is no shortage of oxygen in the state as of now, chief secretary Sitaram Kunte said. “The state produces 1,250 metric tonnes and is getting 500 metric tonnes of oxygen from the allocation made by the central government. Though we are utilising the entire stock, there is no shortage of oxygen in the state as of now.”

Meanwhile, former chief minister and leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said that the Centre has increased its supply of oxygen to the state to 1,784 metric tonnes. Till last week, the supply was 1,661 metric tonnes. “Thank you Hon PM @narendramodi ji for such strong support to citizens of Maharashtra. Maharashtra got allotment of 1784 MT oxygen supply which is more than double as compared to any of the major states including Gujarat, UP, Karnataka, MP,” Fadnavis said in a tweet.

He shared the information in response to MVA allegations that the Centre has been allocating less oxygen supply than what is required by the state.

As the BJP and the MVA spar over oxygen supply, the Centre allocated funds to set up 551 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) medical oxygen generation plants inside public health facilities in the country. Earlier, the Centre had released 201.58 crore to set up 162 dedicated oxygen plants in government hospitals.

While speaking to the media on Sunday, Lad slammed the Thackeray government on various issues including handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Modi government had in January 2021 released 201 crore to set up 10 oxygen plants in Maharashtra. Five months on, the state government could not even utilise it properly when the oxygen is much needed to treat the Covid-19 patients. The question arises here, Has the fund released for the oxygen plants been siphoned off by this extortionist government?” he questioned.

Countering Lad’s claim, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said that no funds were given by the Centre to MVA. Instead, the installation was to be done by the engineers of the appointed agency by the Centre. “BJP is the biggest liar party. Let us expose this blatant lie. No funds were given by GOI to MVA government; agency [was] finalized by GOI. Machines supplied after 5th April 2021 on different dates. Installation is done by the engineer of the agency appointed by GOI. State govt has no role but still, BJP has audacity to level false allegations. Modi govt has clarified that out of 162 plants only 33 commissioned. Now they have declared additional 551plants. Only Modi ji knows their fate (sic.),” Sawant said in a series of tweets.

Meanwhile, state urban development minister Eknath Shinde has taken the initiative to set up 14 oxygen generating plants in local bodies falling under the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. These plants will be operational in the next few days in Thane, Kalyan Dombivali, Bhiwandi, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath, Badlapur, Mira Bhayander, Vasai Virar, Navi Mumbai and Panvel Municipal Corporations, said Shinde. The oxygen plants are expected to add 2 metric tonnes of production daily, which can support 200 beds daily.

The administration will replicate the Pressure Swing Absorption Technology (PSA) technology which has been successfully adopted by the district authorities of Gadhinglaj town in Kolhapur district and other parts of the state and country to generate oxygen directly from atmospheric air.

Considering the oxygen requirement in MMR, three plants have been started in the Thane civic region, two each in Kalyan Dombivali and Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation areas and one each in Bhiwandi, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath, Badlapur, Mira Bhayander, Vasai Virar and Panvel.

Once operational, the plant will not only eliminate the hospitals’ complete dependence on oxygen refilling companies for cylinders and tankers, it will become a personal asset of the civic body to treat Covid-19 patients and also for other cases of respiratory illness in future.

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