To ensure that there is no crisis of oxygen in hospitals across the country, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs prohibited supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the government, from Thursday onwards.
The ministry has issued a directive to states and Union Territories asking them to make sure there are no restrictions in the supply of medical oxygen.
In its order, the ministry said: “Supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the Government, is prohibited w.e.f. 22 April, 2021 and till further orders. States/UTs shall strictly abide by the supply plan of medical oxygen prepared by EG-II (Empowered Group-II) and as revised from time-to-time.”
The ministry said that availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen is an important prerequisite for managing moderate and severe cases of Covid-19 and with the increasing cases, the medical oxygen supply will need to keep pace with the requirements of the states and Union Territories.
Empowered Group-II (EG-II) is mandated for coordinating medical logistics, including medical oxygen. EG-II has reviewed the supply of oxygen for industrial use in order to divert the same to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen in the country and save precious lives.
Accordingly, it has recommended to prohibit the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers forthwith from Aprill 22 till further orders, with the exception of nine specified industries.
The recommendations of the EG-II have been accepted by the Central government and the said decision, along with the list of nine exempted industries, have been conveyed by Secretary, Health and Family Welfare on April 18.
The ministry in the order stated that all District Magistrates, Superintendents of Police and Commissioners of Police of concerned districts will be personally liable for implementing the directions and ensuring there is no hindrance in oxygen supply.
“No restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the states and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen carrying vehicles,” the MHA directive stated.
It also pointed that there should be no restrictions imposed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit the oxygen supplies only to the hospitals of the state and Union Territories in which they are located.
“There shall be free movement of oxygen carrying vehicles into the cities, without any restriction of timings, while also enabling inter-city supply without any restriction,” it stated.
The order said that no authority shall attach the oxygen carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular districts or area.
The ministry had previously sent a letter in September 2020 and an advisory on April 16 regarding smooth supply of oxygen but on Thursday, a direction has been given under the Disaster Management Act which means states will have to comply.
According to Section 56 of DM Act, any government officer who refuses or fails to follow the directives issued by the authority under this act may face imprisonment up to one year with a fine.