Centre restricts use of liquid oxygen for only medical purposes, no exceptions

By | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi
Apr 25, 2021 08:02 PM IST

The Union ministry of home affairs has already prohibited the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers from April 22 barring nine select sectors.

The Centre on Sunday directed states and Union territories to ensure that use of liquid oxygen is not allowed for any non-medical purpose and all manufacturing units must maximise their production to make it available for medical use only with “immediate effect until further orders.” This is the government’s latest measure to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country as several states have reported a shortage of the gas to treat critically-ill coronavirus disease patients amid rising deaths.

People carry oxygen cylinders after refilling them in a factory, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in Gujarat's Ahmedabad. (Reuters Photo)
People carry oxygen cylinders after refilling them in a factory, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease in Gujarat's Ahmedabad. (Reuters Photo)

“The Central Government has reviewed the oxygen supply situation and has decided that with immediate effect, use of liquid oxygen, including the existing stock, will be allowed for medical purposes only, and that all manufacturing units may be allowed to maximise their production of liquid oxygen, and make it available to the Government, for use for medical purposes only,” the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) said in a statement. Union home secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said in the statement on Sunday that “no exception is allowed to any industry with regard to use of liquid oxygen.”

Also read | Don’t panic and stock oxygen, Remdesivir at home: AIIMS chief to Covid patients

The Centre tweaked its previous order that exempted nine categories of industries from diverting liquid oxygen for medical use and said these industries will no longer continue to do so. The nine industrial sectors were pharmaceuticals, petroleum refineries, steel plants, ampoules and vials, nuclear energy establishments, oxygen cylinder manufacturers, waste water treatment plants, food and water purification and process industries which require uninterrupted running of furnaces. All other industrial units were told to consider alternative measures such as import of oxygen or setting up Air Separator Units (ASUs) for generation of oxygen for their captive requirements.

The government also said on Sunday it has directed all major ports to waive all charges for ships carrying oxygen and related equipment amid a massive surge in coronavirus infections across the country. The ministry of ports, shipping and waterways said it has directed all major ports to accord the highest priority in the berthing sequence to the vessels carrying consignments of medical grade oxygen, oxygen tanks, oxygen bottles, portable oxygen generators and oxygen concentrators.

Also read | ‘Glaring lapses...’: Parliamentary committee report flagged concerns over oxygen supply last year

The government has also exempted customs duty on medical-grade oxygen, oxygen related equipment and Covid-19 vaccines till July 31, 2021. It has granted full exemption from basic customs duty and health cess on import of 16 items related to oxygen and oxygen-related equipment. Among other steps, planes of the Indian Air Force (IAF) brought in cryogenic oxygen tanks from Singapore and also transported them to several parts of the country to reduce travel time.

The MHA’s latest order on oxygen comes on a day India reported a record daily rise of 349,691 new infections and 2767 deaths, which have pushed the tally to 16.96 million and death toll to 192,311. 

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