On Thursday, the Centre issued orders in which it said that states cannot hold up oxygen supplies of other states. The order came straight from Ministry of Home Affairs after there have been multiple reports of states hoarding oxygen or prolonging its supply to states that are in need. The states which are stalling or hoarding are doing so out of fear that they may run out of oxygen supply for their own state.
The ongoing second wave of COVID-19 which has stretched the health care infrastructure to a point that there have been shortages of oxygen supplies in various states. Amid such shortages, there have been news coming from various states that other states are not allowing trucks carrying oxygen to leave their respective state and travel to the states where it’s needed.
New Delhi, which has been reporting an average of over 23,000 new COVID-19 patients every day accused Uttar Pradesh and Haryana of stalling oxygen supply. To this accusation Haryana retaliated alleging that the Delhi government has been “looting” oxygen tanker that was meant for Faridabad.
Centre issues clear orders amid states’ accusations
Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla passed some clear instructions in an order on April 22. The order stated, “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.”
Moreover, the order also made it clear that there can be no restrictions imposed on other oxygen manufacturers or suppliers to limit their oxygen supply to provide only for their respective states or union territories.
The complete order is stated as
“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. No authority shall attach the oxygen carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular district(s) or area. …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.”
Districts Magistrates and Superintendent of Police will be “personally liable”
Moreover, it puts the responsibility of executing the order on the SPs and District Magistrates and further stated that they would be held “personally liable” for the order’s execution.
According to NDTV, there have been reports claiming that similar orders have been issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs to all the Chief Secretaries. NDTV quoted a Ministry official saying. “This one is an order under the Disaster Management Act and failure to implement the order can attract penal provisions of the law for concerned state officials.”
The law states that anyone that fails to comply with the given order will be attracting an imprisonment of up to 1 year, a fine or both. In the cases where failure in complying leads to fatalities, the person shall attract imprisonment up to 2 years. This law is stated in the Disaster Management Act’s Section 51.
PM Modi takes high-level meeting regarding oxygen shortage in India
Meanwhile, due to states raising red flags in the oxygen supply situation, Prime Minister finally took another high-level meeting in which he reviewed the current shortage of oxygen and assessed all other variables that’s leading to such travesty.
A press release coming straight from the Prime Minister’s Office said, “The PM spoke about the need to work rapidly on multiple aspects: increasing production of oxygen, increasing the speed of distribution and using innovative ways to provide oxygen support to health facilities.”
In the meeting, the Prime Minister asked the officials to ensure that all the states receive oxygen supply and the supply is carried out in a smooth manner. He also directed the officials about the need of delegating responsibility within the local administration in cases where there are obstructions. Moreover, the officials at the meeting were asked by PM Modi to find out new ways to increase the oxygen supply.