Railways, IAF being deployed to reduce transportation time for oxygen tankers: PM

NEW DELHI, 23 Apr: Amid several states flagging scarcity of medical oxygen in the Covid-19 fight, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the railways and the Indian Air Force (IAF) are being deployed to reduce the transportation time for oxygen tankers and all state governments need to work together to meet requirements of lifesaving gas and medicines.

Chairing a high-level meeting with chief ministers of 11 states and union territories with maximum Covid-19 cases, Modi urged states to work as one and coordinate with one another to fulfill medical requirements, asserting that “if we work as one nation, there will not be any scarcity of resources.”

Modi said every state should ensure that no oxygen tanker, irrespective of its destination, is stopped or gets stranded, a statement said.

The prime minister’s call for coordination and working together to meet the spiralling health crisis comes amid multiple reports of medical oxygen supply being stopped at borders of one state or the other during transit.

Hospitals in many states have complained of a shortage in their oxygen supply and sent out SOS messages, requiring the government to take urgent measures to

increase the production and supply of the lifesaving gas.

Modi noted that the railways and the IAF have been deployed to reduce the travel time of oxygen tankers and assured states of the Centre’s full support in the fight against the pandemic.

Modi asked states to take stringent measures against hoarding and black marketing of essential medicines and injections.

He also called for making people continuously aware, so that they do not indulge in panic buying. He said that with united efforts, they would together be able to stop this second wave of the pandemic across the country.

With some opposition-ruled states criticizing the Centre’s recently announced vaccination policy as discriminatory against states, Modi said that the union government has already provided them more than 15 crore doses free of cost.

Taking note of the points raised by chief ministers on the issue of oxygen supply, Modi said there is a continuous effort to boost it and all related departments and ministries are also working together. Industrial oxygen has also been diverted to meet immediate requirements, he noted.

He said each state should ensure that no oxygen tanker, irrespective of which state it is headed for, is stopped or gets stranded, and urged chief ministers to set up a high-level coordination committee to carry oxygen to different hospitals of the state.

This coordination committee should ensure that as soon as there is an allotment of oxygen from the Centre, it can deliver oxygen as per requirement in different hospitals of the state immediately, he said.

Asserting that the Centre is working on all possible options to reduce the travel and turnaround time of oxygen tankers, he said the railways has started Oxygen Express while empty oxygen tankers are also being transported by the IAF to reduce one way travel time.

Along with upgrading of resources, states have to focus on testing for the infection, he said, stressing that widespread testing should be conducted so that people get the facility easily.

He also said that the ongoing vaccination programme should not slow down, noting that more than 13 crore vaccine doses have been provided free of cost to the states by his government so far.

The campaign launched by the central government to provide free vaccine to all citizens above 45 years as well as healthcare and frontline workers will also continue, he said.

Noting that the vaccine will be available to all citizens above 18 years of age from 1 May, he said they all need to work in mission mode to get more and more people vaccinated.

In the meeting of Modi with chief ministers, a presentation was made by NITI Aayog member VK Paul that highlighted the preparations being made to counter the new surge of infections. Paul also presented the roadmap for increasing the medical facilities and targeted treatment of patients, the statement said.

During the interaction, chief ministers of states, which included Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, briefed Modi about the steps being taken by them in the current wave. (PTI)