File photo: A man carrying an oxygen cylinder at IGMC hospital, Shimla.      (Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times)
File photo: A man carrying an oxygen cylinder at IGMC hospital, Shimla.      (Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times)

‘Demand for medical oxygen rising rapidly in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, UP’: Experts

While there is still a lack of clarity over the situation in Delhi, the Centre said it is supplying enough, the state said it isn’t receiving enough while the Delhi High Court has criticised both governments for not doing their job
By Sunetra Choudhury
UPDATED ON APR 27, 2021 11:17 PM IST

The shortage of medical oxygen in some of the northern and north-western states (and national capital Delhi) has been or is in the process of being resolved, the head of the empowered group on oxygen supply, Giridhar Aramane, said. He, however, said that demand from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are rising rapidly.

“Bengaluru’s caseload is increasing apart from Kerala. Karnataka’s allocation has gone up from 300 MT to 800 MT as the caseload has more than doubled in a few days,’’ said Aramane, who also serves as Union secretary of road transport and highways. He heads the empowered group since Guruprasad Mahapatra, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is recovering from Covid-19. Karnataka has just announced a 14-day lockdown but the increasing oxygen demand by the new states may be the new challenge for the Centre.

While there is still a lack of clarity over the situation in Delhi, the Centre said it is supplying enough, the state said it isn’t receiving enough while the Delhi High Court has criticised both governments for not doing their job. The demand from other parts of the country is rising.

”What needs to be seen is that Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana have all started asking for more oxygen,” said Sumita Dawra, additional secretary of DPIIT under which comes under the commerce minister, the body responsible for medical oxygen.

The figures which were presented in Delhi High Court on Tuesday bear out this shift in oxygen demand. The empowered group’s mapping shows that on April 15, Karnataka consumed 250 MT of oxygen which reached 770MT by the weekend. The state expects demand for over 1000 MT by the end of the month.

HT reached out to the CM’s office for a comment but is yet to get a response. However, state minister MTB Nagaraj told reporters in Bengaluru, “Covid is spreading at an unimaginable speed. We have given some suggestions to the CM at the cabinet meeting.’’

Karnataka has 262,162 active cases of Covid-19 as of Monday. Similiarly, Tamil Nadu saw its oxygen allocation go up from 208MT on April 15 to 355MT over the weekend. The state expects demand to further increase to 400. “At present, Tamil Nadu is using around 350 MTs of oxygen for Covid- 19 treatment. It is likely to touch 400 MTs if active cases shoot up,” said P Umanath, director, Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC). Senior officials said that the EG’s allotment for the state is incorrect. Chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami wrote to PM Modi on this issue on Sunday and asked the Centre to immediately cancel oxygen being diverted from Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana which have fewer active cases compared to the state. Tamil Nadu has an oxygen production capacity of 400 MT and storage of 1167 MT.

It’s not just the southern states; Uttar Pradesh has seen a rise in demand from 550MT on April 15 to 850MT on Sunday. Its projected demand for the end of the month is also likely to be over 1000 MT. Gujarat has gone from 550MT to more than 1000 MT and has now demanded 1500MT by the end of the month.

“Maharashtra, with 700,000 active cases, is consuming 1600 MT, Kerala with 219,000 cases is consuming 241 MT but Gujarat with 115,000 cases is consuming 1000MT,’’ said Saket Tiku who heads the gas manufacturers association (AIGMA), adding that the usage needs to be “rationalised”.

“That’s what I told the Prime Minister in our meeting with him last week. It’s a message that the health ministry needs to send out.’’

The solicitor general also said this during the Delhi High Court hearing, “We have to redistribute in a way that they are taken care of. This is a need-based exercise,’’ said Tushar Mehta, putting the views of the central government in court.

But things are getting better in the national capital, Dawra insisted.

“Delhi has a good stock of oxygen now. 450-500 MT and another 100 with resellers and rest is on the way.” Tiku added that 24 tankers with 100 MT of oxygen are on their way to Delhi from Jamshedpur. And on Tuesday, the first train from Raigarh, Chattisgarh to Delhi, carrying 64MT tonne of oxygen arrived.

On Tuesday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said that things were getting better. ‘‘Last week, the oxygen crisis in Delhi worsened on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Hospitals were jam-packed and I was personally scared of any major untoward incident leading to several deaths due to lack of oxygen. But, in the last two days, the situation has improved significantly. We do not have as many SOS calls from hospitals now as we got on those three days. I want to thank the Central government for helping us through this time by providing their top officials who worked in close coordination with the senior officers of the Delhi government. I thank our Delhi government officials too who’ve worked day and night to address the crisis,” Kejriwal said.

Uttar Pradesh acknowledged that there was an increase in demand, “The demand for medical oxygen in Uttar Pradesh has increased by 25 to 30% from the normal times,” said additional chief secretary, health, UP Amit Mohan Prasad.

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