The Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) has been hearing the matter on Covid management in Nagpur. It has directed the Divisional Commissioner, Amravati and Joint Commissioner, F.D.A. to file an affidavit stating the present position of continuous supply of life saving drugs such as Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, Favipiravir, Ivermectin and other like drugs and also consistent supply of oxygen to all the Covid Care Centres in the division.
The court noted that although it received the government’s response on the ground situation in Nagpur, “no information and no data as regards the supply of the aforestated lifesaving drugs, oxygen distribution system adopted for maintaining continuous supply to Covid Care Centres of drugs and vaccination programme has been received.”
The Advocate for the intervenor, Aditya Goyal, submitted that he had some experience of working in steel plants, and named four steel plants that have the capacity to produce liquid oxygen in sufficient quantity and that 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 court considered this argument and directed the Divisional Commissioner (Nagpur) to consider requisitioning the services of steel plants and industries in a bid to supply oxygen to treat critical Covid-19 patients.
The Bench of Justices Sunil Shukre and SM Modak said, “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.”
The District Collector (Nagpur) apprised the court that liquid oxygen by Bhilai Steel Plant in tankers containing 85 metric tons, 30 metric tons and 50 metric tons of liquid oxygen have been supplied to the district on April 21, 22 and 23 respectively. “Three railway tankers containing liquid oxygen, brought from Vizag, would be arriving and that by tomorrow morning (April 24) 5 tankers containing liquid oxygen of 20 metric tonnes per tanker would be arriving in Nagpur”, recorded the court.
Despite the collector’s assurance that there is substantial increase in the supply of oxygen to Nagpur, the High Court Bench noted that the problem of lack of oxygen continues. “The information given by Shri Thakre shows that there is substantial increase in the supply of oxygen to Nagpur, which quantity of oxygen should reasonably be enough to cater to the needs of Covid patients in Vidarbha Region including Nagpur. However, inspite of an increase in supply of oxygen, the problem appears to continue,” the Bench reportedly remarked.
Further, the court recorded that the problem is in the non-availability of empty cylinders for refilling of the oxygen in sufficient quantity. The court said, “Shri Thakre, learned District Collector informs the Court that as per the information received from 11 oxygen distributors in Nagpur, there are 20,000 oxygen cylinders in circulation, out of which 9,000 cylinders at a time remain with the hospitals and 9,000 cylinders remain at a time in the process of being refilled at respective refilling stations of the oxygen.”
This number appears to be adequate but it is not so if we consider the complaints being received about the non-availability/non-supply of oxygen to various Covid Care Centres and hospitals, opined the Bench. “Had the oxygen supply being in completely order, no complaint of non-availability or non-supply of oxygen would have been received by this Court and also by the authorities…..Whatever be the number of cylinders, whether in circulation or whether with hospitals, it is not in sufficient quantity and it is required to be increased and augmented,” added the court.
To resolve this issue, the court accepted that oxygen is extensively used in different industries, in particular, the steel industry and, therefore, oxygen cylinders would be available with various steel industries, industrial units, fabrication units and welders’ shops.
As about 4,300 such oxygen cylinders are available with different industrial units, fabrication units and welders’ shops and about 30 such cylinders are available with Railways at Nagpur, the Bench said, “We are of the opinion that these cylinders must be used by authorities by exercising powers under the Disaster Management and Epidemic Act, and if this is done, it will bring order, discipline and punctuality in the chain of supply of oxygen to Covid hospitals in Nagpur and in the Vidarbha Region.” The District Collector was then directed to do the needful.
Lastly, the Division Bench has also directed the State of Maharashtra to review the position regarding requirement of Remdesivir vials for the State and if it is found that more vials are required than those allocated as per the Central Government order, “appropriate request with proper justification be made to the Central Level Committee”.
The order may be read here: