Amid a worsening oxygen shortage, Delhi High Court ordered the central government to divert the entire supply of oxygen going to certain industries and use it for medical purposes instead. The court also suggested forming dedicated green corridors for speedy transportation of the gas from the production facility to places where it will be used.
Hearing a plea to ensure oxygen supply to six Max Hospitals in Delhi-NCR amid surge in COVID-19 cases, the bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli stated it was dismayed that hospitals are running out of oxygen but steel plants are running. The court ruled that responsibility of providing oxygen to hospitals rests squarely on the central government and, if necessary, the entire supply of oxygen to steel and petroleum industries should be diverted for medical use.
"We direct central government to protect right to life of citizens who are seriously ill and require medical oxygen and to supply the same by whatever means it is required. The responsibility falls on Central government to ensure supply. If necessary, Centre should divert entire supply from industries particularly steel and petroleum," the court said.
Calling them "oxygen guzzlers", the court ordered steel and petroleum industries to hand over their oxygen supplies to the Centre. An Empowered Group (EG-II), led by Secretary of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), has already ordered restricting supply of oxygen to industries, barring a few, from April 22.
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"If Tatas can divert oxygen they are generating for their steel plants to medical use, why can't others? This is the height of greed. Is there no sense of humanity left," the bench further said.
With the second wave of coronavirus pandemic in full swing, the demand for medical oxygen has gone up manifold in the country. As per government data, India has a daily production capacity of 7,500 MT of oxygen, of which 6,600 MT is being supplied to states for medical purposes. While this should cover the requirements, for now, disrupted supply chain and logistics issues have created a crisis. With the COVID-19 caseload rising regularly, the shortage is expected to deepen over time.
(Edited by Vivek Punj)