Chandigarh, Sep 23 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to direct for urgent steps to ensure adequate supplies of medical oxygen from other states amid apprehension of its shortage with rising coronavirus cases.
The chief minister said this during a video conference held by PM Modi with chief minister of seven states, according to statement.
The CM also sought Rs 200 crore that the state government had requested as the next tranche of the central aid for the coronavirus management.
With experts suggesting possible aggravation of the coronavirus condition due to stubble burning, the CM reiterated his demand for fiscal aid by the Centre to farmers for defraying the cost on management of paddy straw.
Though the state government is launching an aggressive media campaign to educate farmers and people in general, giving the linkage with COVID, it is imperative for Centre to step in with Rs 100 per quintal compensation the state has been seeking for farmers to manage paddy straw, he said.
The CM further urged the PM to direct the Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, to clear the licence request for establishment of a liquid medical oxygen plant at Government Medical College, Patiala, under the PM Swasthya Surkhsha Yojna, the statement said.
The prime minister while promising to look into the chief minister's request suggested that the state government should strengthen its COVID awareness efforts by involving the civil society even more aggressively.
He expressed confidence that Punjab will be able to reduce the positivity rate to less than 5 per cent and bring down the coronavirus fatality rate, the statement said.
Noting that government and private hospitals in Punjab could end up facing a shortage of medical Oxygen supply due to the late surge of cases, the CM told the PM that with no manufacturer of medical oxygen, the state was dependent largely on three big manufacturers for liquid oxygen.
These are at Baddi (Himachal Pradesh), Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and Panipat (Haryana), but the Dehradun and Panipat plants are not supplying oxygen as per the state's demand, he said, urging to ensure the supply of medical oxygen from the states. The Panipat plant can supply more oxygen if the supply to Panipat Refinery is curtailed. His government, on its part, was in talks with industry to convert industrial oxygen to medical oxygen, he said.
On the fiscal package, the CM said the Centre has released Rs 131.22 crore from the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund and after submitting a utilisation certificate for the whole amount, the state had requested the Centre for an immediate release of Rs 200 crore, which is awaited.
He said the Centre was requested to reconsider the limit of 35 per cent expenditure for COVID relief under SDRF (State Disaster Response Funds) from the overall availability of the resource envelope.
He requested the PM to make this limit as an overall limit or removed altogether as the pandemic is going to stay for a long time.
Updating the PM on the state's COVID situation, the CM said the last three to four weeks had seen a surge in cases and on an average in the past week, around 2,400-2,500 cases and 55-60 mortalities were reported daily.
The virtual meet was also attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan besides chief ministers of six other states--Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK