The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that medical oxygen in any country cannot be unlimited and with the active and constant supervision of the Prime Minister it is augmenting the oxygen supply on a war footing to provide relief to COVID-19 patients.
The government said oxygen supplies available at any given time in the country are to be distributed to all the states, especially those which are critically burdened with high number of active COVID cases, in a balanced manner.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the sheer magnitude of this unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases itself bring with it certain inbuilt limitations in terms of available resources which need to be professionally augmented and utilised.
Further, the centre said to deal with shortage of medical oxygen, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is in the process of commissioning 162 PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption technology to generate oxygen at local level) plants across the country on a war footing.
In its 200-page affidavit, filed in the suo motu case on distribution of essential supplies and services during Pandemic, the Centre said “any singular/isolated deviation in such plan for a particular State (either under a judicial order or otherwise) without keeping in mind the national availability and ever changing requirements of each State is bound to have a cascading effect on oxygen supply to other States”.
The affidavit was taken on record by a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, which posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.
“It is also pertinent to note that the medical oxygen in any country cannot be unlimited. While the government started all out efforts to augment oxygen resources and procure more and more oxygen from all available sources, these supplies available at any given time in the country are to be distributed to all the states, especially those which are critically burdened with high number of active COVID cases, in a balanced manner,” the government said.
It said, “The Central Government, with active and constant supervision and direct involvement of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, is augmenting the oxygen supply on a war footing evolving and implementing innovative measures”.
The affidavit filed by additional secretary, MHA, said ever since the onset of the current wave of pandemic, there is an unprecedented and rapid rise in the number of active COVID cases in several states across the country with an almost unabated surge in the growth rate of such cases.
“It is submitted that the medical oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of COVID affected patients, especially in the second wave. The entire available capacity of oxygen in India was utilised for supply for industrial as well as medical purposes in the form of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO),” it said.
It said the “unexpected and exponential” surge in the number of active COVID cases across several States in the second wave has resulted in a scenario wherein there has been an increasing demand for medical oxygen, especially from the States with a high burden of active COVID cases.
“It is pertinent to note that while the demand in Maharashtra is expected to be beyond available production capacity of the State, states like Madhya Pradesh do not have any production capacity to meet their demand for medical oxygen. Besides, there is also a trend of increasing demand in other oxygen producing states themselves”, the Centre said.
It said to give clarity and assurance to the States on oxygen supplied over the next few weeks of surge in cases, an exercise for mapping of sources of supplies to the medical oxygen demand of the critically affected states was undertaken by different departments and States were requested to provide these progressive projections forecast for requirement for medical oxygen as on April 20, April 25 and April 30, respectively.
“Accordingly, based on the aforesaid projected requirements of these critically affected states, 4880 MT, 5619 MT and 6593 MT were mapped in an indicative framework, for the supply of medical oxygen to these 12 States for meeting their projected demand as on 20th April, 25th April and 30th April, respectively and was duly approved vide order dated April 15, 2021,” it said.
The centre, however, said by its very nature, this plan and mapping framework cannot be static as it needs to be dynamically changed if any sudden change takes place in the surge of infection in any particular State.
It said after some apprehensions were raised by some States on disruption in supply of oxygen; the MHA has issued orders to the State /Union Territory governments and authorities to ensure uninterrupted movement of medical oxygen between the states.
Regarding commissioning of PSA Plants, the Centre said that these plants established in hospitals, especially in far flung areas enable the hospitals to become self-sufficient in generation of oxygen for their needs and thereby, reduce the burden on the medical oxygen supply grid across the country.
“It is submitted that 38 plants have already been installed and another 21 plants will be installed by April 30, 2021. A further 105 plants will be installed by May 31, 2021 and thereafter increasing to 156 plants by June 30, 2021. Besides, 500 more PSA plants are planned to be installed in the hospitals in district headquarters to enhance oxygen generation in smaller cities and towns,” it said.