Bihar incentivises oxygen production amid shortage for Covid patients
The Bihar government has cleared Oxygen Production Policy 2021 pledging financial assistance for establishing oxygen manufacturing and related capacities in the state at a time when an acute shortage of the gas has taken lives of many Covid-19 patients across the country.
“This policy has been introduced with an aim to leverage the opportunities in oxygen manufacturing and to make Bihar self-dependent in production of oxygen,” said state industry minister Shahnawaz Husain.
Hospitals in Bihar are currently struggling to maintain adequate supply of medical oxygen due to its high demand among the record number of Covid-19 patients infected in the second wave of the disease since February. Many lives have been lost nationally with hospitals running out of oxygen, prompting a diversion of oxygen supplies to struggling states.
Bihar added 13,534 new Covid cases and recorded 97 fatalities, taking the total number of infections to 497,640 and the death toll to 2,739 on Sunday. 40 of these deaths registered on Sunday were reported from capital Patna, where it was difficult to find hospital beds, both in public and private facilities. The state capital reported 2,748 new infections on Sunday- the most by any district.
The minister said the oxygen production policy will support the efforts to contain the Covid-19 crisis and will promote, facilitate and incentivise investment in medical and industrial Oxygen manufacturing units in Bihar to lessen the dependence on other states. It will also help create local skilled manpower and employment opportunities in the oxygen manufacturing sector, he added.
Underlining the efforts to augment the state’s oxygen generation capacity, the minister claimed that while at the beginning of the current month, Bihar had 11 oxygen refilling plants supplying 16 tonnes of LMO, it had now increased to 19 plants supplying 110 tonne of LMO.
As on April 22, Bihar required 157.67 MT (metric tonne) of oxygen for oxygenated beds and 12.42 MT of oxygen for ICU beds, which totals to 170.09 MT. On April 25, Bihar had 156 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) followed by 119 tonnes on April 28 and 107 tonnes on April 29, suggesting an increase in shortfall of the life-saving gas.
Supply of 194 MT medical oxygen per day from the Centre will fill the shortage of around 40-50 MT (approximately) that the state is facing, said an official, who wished not to be quoted. The Centre on Sunday increased Bihar’s oxygen quota to 214 MT.
Under the new Oxygen Production Policy 2021, the state government will provide 30% capital subsidy for establishing plant and machinery with maximum assistance limit of ₹25 crore for cryogenic oxygen plants producing liquid medical oxygen (LMO); ₹0.25 crores for setting up oxygen storage tanks at existing hospitals, and a maximum of ₹75 crore for oxygen cylinder manufacturing.
Investments from the underprivileged social groups of Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Extremely Backward Castes (EBC), women, differently-abled, war-widows, acid attack victims and the third gender, will get a capital incentive of 15.75%.
“For availing incentives under this policy, the eligible units will be required to submit Stage-1 application and also apply for financial clearance latest by September 31. This policy will remain in operation till 31st March 2025,” said Husain
Noted analyst and former director of the A N Sinha Institute of Social studies, D M Diwakar said the policy was introduced very late by the government.
“This policy has come too late and speaks of the government’s insensitiveness towards common people. The proposal for plants, as per policy document, has to be submitted by September. How will the government cope with the requirement in-between? No work has been done in Bihar’s health system and people have been pushed to the wall,” he said.