Punjab CM for action against black marketing of oxygen

Taking stock of the continuing oxygen shortage in the state, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh warned of strict action against black marketing, hoarding or private profiteering of oxygen cylinders

Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh (IANS Photo)
Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh (IANS Photo)


Taking stock of the continuing oxygen shortage in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday warned of strict action against black marketing, hoarding or private profiteering of oxygen cylinders or smuggling them out of the state, especially when its oxygen allocation was itself not being met.

Urging all private hospitals to increase beds, he said these would be supplied adequate oxygen by the government agencies and no punitive action will be taken in case of any accident due to lack of oxygen.

The Chief Minister was chairing a virtual Covid-19 emergency review meeting of six districts -- Ludhiana, SAS Nagar (Mohali), Jalandhar, Bathinda, Patiala, and Amritsar.

Even as Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu expressed concern over people of the state not getting space due to patients coming from outside, the Chief Minister said he was not in favour of refusing hospital care to any patient from other states like Haryana and Delhi, despite the criticality of oxygen supplies.

"We must not refuse any patient who needs hospital care," he said, adding "we will never close our doors to any patient".

Stressing that "they (patients coming from other states) are our people, as India is one country," he said "they are welcome to come and we will look after them as our own".

As per estimates, one-fourth of the beds in Punjab are at present occupied by patients from outside the state, the meeting was informed.

On the issue of oxygen supplies, the Chief Minister further said he had spoken to the Union Home Minister for additional oxygen allocation and will also ask the Centre for more tankers.

He said the state government had taken up with the Centre the issue of allotment of tankers for transportation, to enable Punjab to avail its oxygen allocation from the eastern region.

He said he had been speaking to the Centre for ensuring adequate and regular of oxygen supplies and hoped that the situation will improve.

Currently the state was working with extremely limited allocations, Amarinder Singh said in response to Medical Education Minister O.P. Soni's plea for increasing oxygen supplies, especially in districts like Amritsar, where it was becoming an everyday challenge to arrange for it.

The Chief Minister directed the Industries and Health Departments to work out a supply plan to ensure that all districts have enough oxygen and there is no loss of life.

He directed the Deputy Commissioners to ensure that oxygen cylinders are collected and refilled in time. Every bit of oxygen has to be utilised for medical purposes, he said, adding all district officers must keep a close watch on the situation in their districts and in case of any problem due to past contracts, requisite orders should be passed under the Disaster Management Act.

On the shortage of oxygen cylinders, the Chief Minister said while the Health Department had begun procurement, only 1,000 are likely to be supplied in May, necessitating some interim measures.

He asked district officers to work aggressively on a mechanism of borrowing cylinders from industry wherever they are available.

Noting the efforts of the Industries Department to re-energise old oxygen plants, the Chief Minister said he was also happy to note that the state is getting approximately 200 more oxygen concentrators shortly.

"We have requested the government of India to allot 3,500 out of 1 lakh being imported," he said, while calling for all-out efforts for optimal utilisation of oxygen and regular oxygen audits.

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