Centre steps up ops for medical equipment supply after shortfall complaints
The Centre has begun making additional arrangements for supply of medical cargo, including arrangement of special flight operations and special parcel trains.
The ministry of civil aviation has launched ‘lifeline Udan’ for operating medical cargo across the country. Sixty two flights of medical cargo have been operated since March 26 ferrying 15.4 tonnes of medical supply. Carriers involved in Lifeline Udan operations include Air India, Alliance Air, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Pawan Hans. Private carriers like IndiGo, Spicejet and Blue Dart are operating medical cargo flights on a commercial basis.
This comes days after issues of shortfall were pointed by government’s nodal agency for medical procurement HLL Lifecare Limited. The state-run company had pointed towards a shortfall of supply of equipment due to high demand and issues in logistics since the lockdown. The state-run company had also written to the Indian Railways citing the same issue.
“Since we have been made the nodal agency we have to procure the medical equipment and push the supply chain. Since the lockdown demand has gone up and there have been many issues with transportation and also due to reduced manpower at factories. Due to this we are unable to give definite dates for the delivery,” an HLL official said on conditions of anonymity.
The union government has also formed a committee under the ministry of home affairs for enabling supply of medical equipment. The committee on logistics comprises secretaries to the ministries of aviation, health, drugs, textiles, consumer affairs, shipping, apart from the railway board chairman. The committee is tasked with ensuring unhindered supply of essential and medical goods during the lockdown and coordinating on relief operations.
The committee is scheduled to hold a meeting daily and the issue of ramping up supply of domestic cargo was discussed by the committee. The committee has also discussed the issue of the logjam across highways with lakhs of trucks stranded as movement has been stalled since the lockdown.
The civil aviation ministry on Tuesday said special flights have been arranged to ferry cargo, including COVID-19 related reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), masks, gloves and other accessories across the country.
The Lifeline Udan flights are planned using a hub and spoke model. Cargo hubs have been established at Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata. Lifeline Udan flights connect these hubs to each other and from there to different parts of the country.
The Indian railways has also begun special parcel train services in a bid to increase supply of essential items like medical supplies, medical equipment and groceries in small parcel sizes, in addition to freight trains that are already plying on the Indian Railways’ network.
In addition the directorate general of shipping on Tuesday also issued an advisory to all ports to not levy any demurrage charges, ground rent or performance related penalty or additional charges including storage.
“The Government is working towards smooth functioning of the Ports and its operational organisations, given the nation-wide lockdown some delays in evacuation of goods from the ports have become inevitable due to the effect on the downstream services. As a result of these developments some cargo owners have either suspended their operations or are finding it difficult to transport good/cargo and complete the paper work, resulting in imposition of demurrage, ground rent beyond the allowed free period penal anchorage/berth hire charges and other performance related penalties due to reasons beyond their control,” the advisory said.