HC asks Nagpur collector to requisition oxygen plants of steel factories

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Nagpur, Apr 23 (PTI) The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday asked the Nagpur district collector to consider requisitioning oxygen plants of four steel factories in Maharashtra to supply the life-saving gas for treatment of COVID-19 patients.

A division bench of Justices S B Shukre and S M Modak also asked the collector to consider requisitioning empty oxygen cylinders from various entities, which can be used to fill gas and supplied to hospitals across the district.

'The gap between the demand and supply needs to be filled,' the court said.

The court was hearing a bunch of petitions regarding shortage of oxygen and remdesivir injections used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Nagpur district collector Ravindra Thakare informed the court that the train carrying tankers of liquid oxygen from Vishakhapatnam would reach Maharashtra on Friday evening.

He further said that following the court orders earlier this week, around 160 metric tonnes of oxygen was procured from the Bhilai steel plant in Chhattisgarh in the last three days.

Advocate Aditya Goel, who filed an intervention application, on Friday told the court that there are four steel factories in Maharashtra with oxygen plants.

The court took note of this submission and asked the collector to consider this suggestion of putting to use the oxygen plants of the four steel factories.

'We have full faith in the director of these companies that they would readily agree to permit the state/civic authorities to use their oxygen plants and that a situation for compulsive requisition shall not arise,' Justice Shukre said.

The court noted that there has been a substantial increase in the supply of oxygen to Nagpur.

'However, in spite of the increase, the problem appears to continue. We are informed that the problem also lies in non-availability of empty cylinders,' the bench said.

The court urged the collector to ensure that cylinders available with industries and others are requisitioned and used for COVID-19 patients, and appropriate rent can be given to owners of these cylinders.

The collector informed the court that there is a proposal to set up oxygen plants at some government and civic-run hospitals in Nagpur and a positive decision will be taken soon.

The court was also informed by the Central Drug Controller that the seven companies manufacturing remdesivir in India are working at their maximum capacity and manufacturing 88 lakh vials per month.

He further told the court that strict action is being initiated against people hoarding the drug or indulging in black marketing.

The court said medical practitioners should not prescribe remdesivir in cases where it is not required and should follow the standard operating procedure laid down by the Centre and WHO while treating patients.

The court was irked with government pleader M G Bhangde who told the bench that the principal bench at Bombay was seized of a similar matter, in which the state government has been asked to file an affidavit on steps it had taken over procurement of oxygen and remdesivir.

'The order passed by the principal bench is a welcome and positive order, but that does not mean that this bench (Nagpur) cannot pass directives at the local level,' the court said.

The state government will take time to come up with a mechanism, and COVID-19 patients cannot be kept waiting until then, it said.

'We are feeling extremely sorry on this stand taken by the government. A COVID-19 patient on death bed is only bothered about getting help. They are not bothered about where the help is coming from,' Justice Shukre said.

The bench added that everyone should join hands and fight coronavirus and not each other.

The court has posted the matter for further hearing on April 27. PTI CLS SP ARU ARU