Hindustan Times (Bathinda)
How India ensured steady supply of medical oxygen
CHANGE OF RULES AND SYNERGY BETWEEN THE GOVT AND PRIVATE FIRMS PROVIDED A STEADY SUPPLY OF SUPPLEMENTAL OXYGEN WHICH HELPED INDIA COPE WITH THE DEMAND
NEW DELHI: In the pandemic year, India’s use of medical oxygen rose fourfold from 700 tonnes (MT) a day in February, to 3,000 MT in September, when Covid-19 cases peaked. How did India cope with the demand and yet escape the kind of shortages experienced by countries such as Mexico?
The answer: A combination of cutting through bureaucratic red tape to change the rules and synergy between the government and private companies that provided a steady supply of supplemental oxygen across the country, according to stakeholders HT spoke to.“what if 1 crore people fall sick across the country and need oxygen? How are we prepared? That’s one of the first things the government asked us,’’ recalls Saket Tikoo a member of the oxygen monitoring committee that was set up by the ministry of commerce’s Department of Promotion of industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). He is also head of the All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association (AIIGMA). The question was posed at the first meeting of the panel on April 4 by when 3,569 people had been infected by the virus and 104 had died. Less than a year later, the toll has increased to 11 million cases and the fatalities to 156,000. “The number of cases was not very high at that time so it was important to take stock of the supply and inventory position and prepare for the future,’’ said DPIIT secretary Guruprasad Mahapatra, who was also heading the empowered group on medical infrastructure set up by the Prime Minister’s Office. “So we set up a control room with 51 people from across the country that would coordinate the problems that were arising and how to tackle them.’’ There were plenty. One of the first ones was how to ramp up the medical oxygen supply that was essential to treat patients of Covid-19.“there’s no oxygen plant in Delhi, for example, and no medical oxygen plants in Jammu and Kashmir or Bihar and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. So we suggested to the government that they allow industrial oxygen to be used,’’ said Tikoo. “industrial oxygen is actually a purer form of oxygen and so when we realized that it is the main mode of curing Covid, we decided to go ahead after consulting the health ministry,’’ said Sumita Dawra, additional secretary .