Bhopal: The shortage of oxygen cylinders in Madhya Pradesh, while the pandemic continues to rage, is not only killing the patients but has also paralysed its manufacturing industries.
A few days after the news of alleged death of seven people in Madhya Pradesh due to the shortage of oxygen, nearly 60-70 small and medium scale units have either shut down or stopped manufacturing activities in Govindpura and Mandideep industrial areas of the state capital as the government banned oxygen supply for industries. This is reportedly leading to losses upto Rs 60-70 crore per day.
Even though, the authorities have admitted that there is a problem of oxygen supply, they have refuted the claims of any deaths due to the shortage.
The government’s ban on industrial use of oxygen was announced on September 9, after Maharashtra had stopped the supply of 20 tonnes of oxygen to the state. However, following a request from the industrial associations, the state government, on September 17, ordered to restore 10% of the oxygen supply to the factories, but, even after 10 days, the order has not been implemented.
“First the lockdown, and now the ban on the supply of oxygen cylinders to the factories has put dozens of small and medium scale industries on the brink of closure. It's a matter of survival. How will we survive?,” asked Amarjeet Singh, president of Govindpura Industrial Area (GIA).
"PM Modi said Jaan hai to Jahan hai (one can conquer the world if one is alive) during a speech, but dhan (money) is also necessary for jaan,” Amarjeet said.
The GIA has nearly 1,100 small and medium scale units which manufacture goods related to iron, metal work, fabric, electric appliances, etc. These units require nearly 2,000-2,200 cubic metre oxygen cylinders (each cylinder of 10 cubic metre) per day but due to the shortage, they are getting none, claimed GIA officials.
“We use oxygen to cut the raw material. Work of the small scale units starts with cutting raw materials and since the last 15 days, nearly 20,000 people have no work,” Amarjeet told NewsClick, adding that, “Instead of supporting us in dire need, the government is forcing us to shut down the factories.”
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Meanwhile, the president of Mandideep Industrial Association (MIA) Rajeev Aggrawal claimed around 40 manufacturing factories including a well-known tractor manufacturing company have shut down due to the shortage of oxygen.
“Shortage of oxygen is not only hurting the manufacturing units, but also the pharmaceutical companies which use oxygen in lab testing. We normally need 1,000 oxygen containers of 10 cubic metre every day, however, we have agreed to work on 10% of supply because of the shortfall of supply, but the supply is yet to begin,” said Aggarwal.
He also pointed out that if this is the condition of two industrial areas which are in the vicinity of the state capital, one can only imagine the dire situation in other business areas of the state.
“We are not against the supply of oxygen to COVID-19 patients. We fully support the Government, but something should be done so that the factories can function. Our only demand from the government is to supply the 10% of oxygen to us, as per the order,” he added.
What Does the Govt Say
With the rising COVID-19 cases in the state, the demand for oxygen cylinders has also surged from 40 tonnes per day in July to 90 and 110 tonnes a day in August and September, respectively. Amid this, the Maharashtra government stopped the supply of 20 tonnes oxygen to MP for nearly three days from its Nagpur plant. It was restored after an order by Madhya Pradesh High Court on September 16. The following day, the Union government also announced the supply of 50 tonnes of oxygen to the state every day on CM Chouhan’s request.
Additionally, the state itself produces 50 tonnes of oxygen a day from its various plants, while the remaining demand was being from supply from Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Interestingly, according to CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and minister Vishwas Sarang, the state has an adequate supply of 130 tonnes of oxygen a day. With the Union government’s aid of 50 extra tonnes a day, the state’s capacity has risen up to 180 tonnes a day. However, despite the sufficient availability of oxygen supply, the industries are facing an oxygen crisis.
NewsClick reached out to Principal Secretary of State Industry, Sanjay Shukla, who did not respond but as per the MIA president, Rajeev Aggarwal, Shukla has assured resumption supply over the phone a day ago.
We have been told not to supply to industries: Oxygen supplier
A Bhopal-based oxygen cylinder wholesale supplier Parshuram, who supplies oxygen to 10 hospitals of the city, claimed the price of oxygen cylinders have surged by nearly 45-50% and refilling by nearly 35-40 % due to the shortage, as well as the rise in petrol and diesel prices.
The supplier claimed that they have been asked not to supply to industries except the hospitals.
“A oxygen cylinder of 7 cubic metre costs Rs 12,500 with 18% GST and 500 refill charges, but currently there are no cylinders and refilling is only for hospitals,” he said.
Another supplier, Saini, claimed that he can arrange the cylinders but price would be high. “I can only arrange cylinders on the assurance that these cylinders will be used in hospitals or nursing homes, not in industries and factories,” Saini told NewsClick over phone, adding that the supply to factories and individuals are prohibited.
Also read: COVID-19: MP Govt Claims 91 Deaths in Bhopal But Crematorium, Graveyards Data Reveals Double the Number