The 12-member oxygen audit panel appointed by Supreme Court has nothing but praise for the Modi government management of the oxygen crisis when the demand peaked during the second wave in April.
“During the first wave, GoI had facilitated steps to enhance the availability of liquid oxygen, as well as, the storage capacity of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) in hospitals and by way of cylinders. The action taken during the first wave of the pandemic last year helped to quickly put in place the mechanisms for enhanced production with the manufacturers in the private sector, enhancing the production and utilization of oxygen available with the Steel plants including in their storage, use of industrial cylinders for medical use, use of LMO storage capacities available with hospitals, ISO containers were imported and used for domestic movement based on policy action taken in September last year, etc.” reads the report put out by 12 member audit panel.
The Modi government handled the oxygen crisis very maturely and put all the available resources together to solve the problem. It encouraged steel manufacturers to supply the liquid oxygen available at their disposal to supply to hospitals to be used as medical oxygen, issued a license to industrial gas manufacturers to manufacture medical oxygen, used PM-CARES fund to set up hundreds of new oxygen plants and improved the supply chain to ensure that states with surplus oxygen like Odisha and Tamil Nadu can supply it to other states.
Moreover, many corporates as well as the government brought oxygen from foreign countries to ensure its availability at hospitals.
Talking about one night in April where Mumbai was facing an oxygen shortage, Chahal said, “I sent messages to top functionaries of the Government of India, including the Cabinet Secretary, Home Secretary, Health Secretary… I sent another set of messages to the top eight leaders of Maharashtra, starting with the honourable CM. I said, this is not the end of the problem and this may happen again.”
He added, “Within 15-20 seconds, I had an incoming call coming from the Cabinet Secretary, Rajiv Gauba. He told me, tell me what you want… I said we have to import oxygen into the state. I told him that we can’t manufacture oxygen at such short notice and that the turnaround time for oxygen coming from Haldia was around eight days.”
At a time when leaders like Kejriwal were inflating the demand for oxygen as high as four times to put pressure on the Modi government, the whole machinery was working relentlessly to ensure that every state is supplied whatever amount of oxygen it asks for.
The criminal behaviour of Kejriwal, which deprived many states that were needier, needs to be punished and the court is already looking into the case.
Apart from the Union government, the corporate houses including the steel manufacturers that utilized their full capacity to meet the nation’s demand are praiseworthy. At the same, we must not forget the betrayal to the nation and its citizens by the politicians like Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee. The praise from the SC appointed panel is a testimony of the efforts put by the Modi government to minimize the damage from the Coronavirus pandemic.