Karnataka wants manufacturers to continue supply of medical oxygen | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: With Covid deaths showing no signs of ebbing, the Centre’s decision to allow oxygen manufacturers to resume supply of the resource for industrial purposes has put the state government in a quandary.
The ministry of home affairs, on May 31, issued a circular allowing use of liquid oxygen in steel and other metal-producing plants, infrastructure, MSMEs and other sectors. The Centre had earlier allowed manufacturers to only produce medical-grade liquid oxygen (LMO) to treat Covid patients.
The Centre’s apparent objective is to strike a balance between Covid-19 management and economic recovery. With Covid cases falling and demand for LMO dropping, oxygen manufacturers had requested permission to resume production for industrial operations.
However, officials on Covid duty in Karnataka say it is too early to lift restrictions since the state is yet to bring the fatality rate under 1% from the current 2.2%.
In consequence, Karnataka has decided to request the Centre to exempt eight manufacturers in the state from producing oxygen for industrial use. Chief secretary P Ravi Kumar will discuss the issue with stakeholders at a meeting on June 7 before writing to the Centre.
“We wanted to immediately resume oxygen supply to industries, but considering Covid concerns, we will take a call on June 7 during the meeting with the chief secretary,” said Gunjan Krishna, industries commissioner.
Pointing to the rise in new cases in Karnataka over the past three days, Munish Moudgil, nodal officer for LMO supply, said: “We need the exemption to be in place for at least 15 days, so that we completely beat this crisis.”
The number of new cases increased from 14,304 on June 1 to 16,387 on June 2 and it jumped to 18,324 on June 3. Fatalities have hovered around the 500-mark, while the test positivity rate stood at around 12%.
Meanwhile, oxygen manufacturers on Friday urged the state to allow them to use at least 20% of oxygen produced for industrial purposes. The government is unlikely to acquiesce.
“We hear the Centre had already put its circular on hold on the state government’s request. The drug controller rejected our proposal to supply oxygen to our clients for industrial purposes,” said Satish Chandra Kesari, managing director, Bhoruka Gases.
Officials, however, admit some manufacturers have already started supplying oxygen to industries as they feared the continuation would create further scarcity of LMO. “We were told that we can supply to industries and so we re-started the process. Since we supply the gas to co-manufactures, we cannot keep tabs on how they utilize it,” said an oxygen manufacturer.
LMO supply on Friday stood at 537 tonnes, while actual consumption was 671 tonnes with 30,655 oxygenated beds still occupied. Officials want supply of at least 1,000 tonnes a day.
“Many industrial associations have asked us to provide at least 10% to 15% of oxygen generated in the state for industrial purposes. We told them categorically that until the cases reduce further, there cannot be any diversion. We hope the situation will change by June 15, when the lockdown ends,” said industries minister Jagadish Shettar, who is incharge of LMO supply.
(With inputs from Sandeep Moudgal).

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