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Consider Using Oxygen From Steel Plants To Meet COVID Emergency : Bombay High Court To State

Sharmeen Hakim
24 April 2021 2:44 AM GMT
Consider Using Oxygen From Steel Plants To Meet COVID Emergency : Bombay High Court To State
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In a bid to resolve the Covid-19 crisis in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has directed Divisional Commissioner (Nagpur) to consider requisitioning the services of steel plants and industries to augment the supply of liquid oxygen in the area.The bench said that the powers under the Disaster Management Act could be invoked for such purposes. The...

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In a bid to resolve the Covid-19 crisis in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has directed Divisional Commissioner (Nagpur) to consider requisitioning the services of steel plants and industries to augment the supply of liquid oxygen in the area.

The bench said that the powers under the Disaster Management Act could be invoked for such purposes. The Court referred to the steel plants located at  Bhandara, Thane, Pune and Dolvi.

The applicant, Aditya Goyal(who said that he has experience of working in steel plants), told the Court that these steel plants, have the capacity to produce liquid oxygen in sufficient quantity and if the plants of these industries are requisitioned for catering to oxygen needs of Covid patients, the whole problem about shortfall of oxygen to Covid patients in respect of Maharashtra would be solved in no time.

"The office shall supply copy of application of Shri Goyal to the Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur and upon receipt of the same, we request that it be appropriately considered by examining if under Section 37 of the Disaster Management Act, services of this Industry could be requisitioned for augmenting supply of liquid oxygen. In fact, we have full faith in the Directors of this company that even upon receipt of a humble request from the Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur, the Directors would readily agree to submit oxygen plants of their company at the disposal of the Divisional Commissioner, Nagpur and they would not let any situation of compulsory requisitioning of their oxygen plants arise in any manner", the Court ordered.

A division bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and SM Modak, hearing a suo motu PIL on Covid management, passed the order on an application by Advocate Aditya Goyal, who submitted that the plant could produce 120 MT of liquid oxygen and easily meet the shortfall of nearly 100 MT in the region.

The court further directed the District Collector to requisition all empty oxygen cylinders from steel plants, Railways, and fabricators, after it was pointed out by Advocates Tushar Mandlekar and Amicus Curiae SP Bhandarkar that the problem lied in the non-availability of empty cylinders in sufficient quantity for the refilling of oxygen.

"We are of the opinion that these cylinders must be used by authorities by exercising powers under theDisaster Management and Epidemic Act, and if this isdone, it will bring order, discipline and punctuality inthe chain of supply of oxygen to Covid hospitals inNagpur and in the Vidarbha Region".

Justice Shukre did not accept the submission of State's counsel, Senior Advocate MG Bhandge that the bench may not pass such orders as the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court had already directed the State to devise a mechanism for smooth supply of oxygen to public and private hospitals throughout the State.

So are patients supposed to keep dying till the State Govt proposes a mechanism? Not only the court, but even the Divisional Commissioner should not take any measures for preservation? We are just asking for the suggestions to be considered. We expect you to assist this court. This is a very positive direction that is being taken in a very negative manner.

The counsel then apologized to the court. Justice Shukre said that the Chief Justice's directions only helped in passing further orders.

We have not passed any order which would be inconsistent with the direction already given in the matter at principal seat. In fact, the direction given by the principal bench at Mumbai, in our view, helps us in issuing further directions to the local authorities so that at the local level the supply chain of oxygen could be made effective and beneficial for the Covid patients in Vidarbha Region

Advocate Goyal a former MD at a Steel company said that the four steel plants in Maharashtra at Bhandara, Pune, Thane and Alibaug could be sufficient for the entire State's Oxygen needs.

Oxygen Distribution

During the hearing, the bench was informed by the Collector, that Nagpur was given enough oxygen. Tankers containing 85 metric tonnes, 30 metric tonnes, and 50 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen were supplied to Nagpur respectively on 21, 22, and 23 April 2021, it was submitted. He said there were 20,000 oxygen cylinders – 9,000 at the hospitals and 9,000 being filled.

The bench noted that despite this, complaints were received about non-availability/non-supply of oxygen to various Covid Care Centres/Hospitals, and therefore, there was substance in the advocates' submissions that there was a shortfall in the number of empty cylinders.

Had the oxygen supply been in order, no complaint of non-availability or non-supply of oxygen would have been received by this court and also by the authorities.

Dr. Anoop Marar and other intervenors pointed out that there were about 4,300 such oxygen cylinders available with different industrial units, fabrication units, and welder shops, and 30 were available with the Railways.

The bench then ordered the Collector, Nagpur to take immediate steps in this regard and see that such cylinders were requisitioned based on their availability. It said a team may be formed by the Collector for requisitioning cylinders, adding, that the assistance of police stations/S.R.P.F., Nagpur be taken and rent be given.

Hold Oxygen Review Meeting

The bench noted that a review meeting would also have to be held by the Collector, Nagpur with the controlling officers to ensure there is an adequate quantity of oxygen supplied to Covid hospitals.

The District Collector informed the court that a proposal had been sent to Western Coalfields Limited, Nagpur for setting up, at its cost, oxygen plants based on air separation technology at G.M.C, I.G.M.C., A.I.I.M.S. Hospitals. He submitted the District Administration would start the work as soon as they would get necessary approvals within six to eight weeks.

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