New Delhi: Delhi-bound oxygen tankers are being held up at supply plants in Haryana for up to 12-13 hours even as the capital grapples with an acute shortage of medical oxygen, ThePrint has learnt.
Delhi government officials and nodal officers for oxygen management said Monday that a group of tankers is allegedly being “held hostage” at a supply plant in Haryana.
According to the sources, who didn’t wish to be named, Haryana is prioritising its own requirements over Delhi’s, despite the crisis in the union territory, and the rush for oxygen triggered by the second Covid wave is translating into a longer wait.
“It is taking long for our tankers to arrive in Delhi as the Haryana government is prioritising refilling of their tankers instead of Delhi’s, despite knowing how grave the situation here is,” a Delhi government official said.
Oxygen plants at Panipat and Faridabad have been taking long to fill up tankers as the demand has been high, the official added. “A 15 MT tanker, which usually takes 2-3 hours to get filled, is now taking up to 12-13 hours,” added the official.
A similar claim was made Monday by Goyal Gases, one of the main suppliers for liquid oxygen in the country, in the Delhi High Court, which is currently looking into the chaos surrounding the oxygen supply, among other aspects of Covid management, in Delhi.
ThePrint reached Haryana Health Minister Anil Vij by calls and messages for a comment on these allegations, but there was no response by the time of publishing this report.
There have also been allegations that tankers headed for Delhi have been stopped from crossing the Rajasthan border, but the state government has dismissed the claims as baseless.
As the country grapples with the second Covid wave, Delhi is among the areas that have reported a grievous shortage of medical oxygen, a life-saving resource for patients of the disease, which attacks the respiratory system. There have been scores of reports of hospitals being on the precipice of running out of oxygen — 12 patients died at Delhi’s Batra Hospital Saturday as it did run out of oxygen — and the Delhi government has alleged it’s not getting its complete allocation from the central government.
Informed of complaints that certain tankers were allegedly not being allowed to travel to Delhi, the high court said last month that obstructing cryogenic tankers carrying medical oxygen will be tantamount to endangering lives.
Amid the shortage of oxygen, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is the nodal officer for Covid in the national capital, Monday wrote to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and requested that GST be waived for oxygen concentrators for six months for the benefit of citizens.
On Monday, in the high court, Goyal Gases sought time-bound filling at oxygen supply plants, alleging delay.
“I’ve to lift (some from Air Liquide). It is situated in Panipat. Once it reaches, there has to be a time-bound filling,” the counsel for Goyal Gases said, adding that it was taking 12 hours to fill a tanker now.
Inox Air, the largest manufacturer of medical gases in India, told the court that it is encountering the same problem. Inox Air supplies oxygen to the national capital from its plant in Rajasthan. It had said in court last week that four trucks were held up in Rajasthan.
Rahul Mehra, the counsel for the Delhi government, said Monday that officials were tracking 33 tankers in all, but “for whatever reasons they aren’t moving”.
Sources in the Delhi government said, according to the central government’s allocation, a total of around 320 Metric Tonnes (MT) is supposed to come daily from oxygen plants in Haryana and Rajasthan, which has been delayed over the past two days. “We should be getting 31 MT supply from the tankers stationed at Faridabad and Panipat in Haryana but we are getting 20 MT only,” the aforementioned official said.
The Delhi government, the official added, has deputed its officers at the (Haryana) plant.
Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said the allegations were baseless. “We have been going by the Centre’s plan and getting 100 MT as per allocation from the INOX plant in Bhiwani, the rest goes to Delhi and other states as is meant to. We are not holding any tankers hostage,” Sharma added.
In a related development, with the shortage of tankers also emerging as a factor in the oxygen crisis, the counsel for Goyal Gases informed the Delhi High Court that Batra Hospital held back one of their tankers Friday and asked for 5 MT of oxygen.
This came after the court called for daily status reports from suppliers on oxygen supply to Delhi. In light of Goyal Gases’ complaint, the court warned Batra Hospital to refrain from “using force to seize the vehicle (tanker)”.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)