The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the appeal following submission by Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan that the State was currently managing with cylinders kept as reserve and the stock could run out soon as the Centre had ignored TN in the revised allocation plan issued on May 5. Based on this, the Chief Justice, on pointing out that in the present state, no directions may be issued, but only an appeal may be made so that there is broad equitable distribution of available resources, said, “The Union and the empowered committee should take immediate steps to ensure adequate supply of oxygen to Tamil Nadu.”
“This must be ensured by tomorrow, so that the emergency that the officials speak of does not arise. It is critical and requires the attention of the highest offices so that lives are not lost for want of oxygen,” Banerjee stressed. He also held, “No court of a State or no State can demand all facilities for itself to the exclusion of others; but there has to be an equitable distribution, reckoning the production capacity in a particular State and the position should not be altered to the detriment of a State, particularly since TN has a production capacity of about 400 MT per day, which with some additional supply, may suffice for its needs.”
Radhakrishnan had submitted that while TN had a production capacity of about 400 MT of oxygen per day along with the south-western districts being served by a Palakkad unit supplying about 40 MT of oxygen, the Centre made an allocation of just 280 MT last week.Following this, a meeting was held on May 2, attended by officials from AP, Telangana and TN, Centre, manufacturers, at which a consensus was arrived at to ensure that 475 MT of oxygen was released to TN on a daily basis.
But in the allocation order issued on May 5, not only did TN not figure, but the Sriperumbudur allocation to Telangana which was sought to be stopped wasn’t recognised, while the Palakkad supply to southern and western districts found no mention, Radhakrishnan said.
Court seeks details of districts’ O2 needs
The Madurai bench of Madras High Court on Thursday sought details of the current requirement of oxygen for COVID patients in hospitals in each district and the oxygen generation plants that are nonfunctional, and also directed the State and Centre to respond on manufacturing vaccines at the HLL Integrated Vaccine Complex, Chengalpattu.
The division bench comprising Justice MS Ramesh and Justice B Pugalendhi was hearing a public interest litigation plea seeking to resume oxygen generation at the plant in BHEL, Tiruchy, and vaccine manufacturing at IVC, Chengalpattu.
The petitioner, Veronica Mary from Madurai, said the three oxygen plants in BHEL that have a capacity of 140-metre cube/hour have remained shut since 2003 and added that resuming oxygen generation after required maintenance would help at this time of severe oxygen shortage.
Also, the vaccine complex at Chengalpattu, which was established by HLL Lifecare Limited (HLL), a central government company, was supposed to produce lifesaving and cost-effective vaccines to minimise the demand-supply gap and support the Universal immunisation programme. It was declared as a ‘project of national importance’ considering its significance and was commissioned in 2012 at Rs 594 crore.
However, even nine years later, the plant has not received approval to manufacture vaccines even though the country is facing a pandemic and only two companies are currently producing the vaccine against it. In all these years, the complex produced no vaccines and is instead manufacturing only hand sanitisers, said the petitioner. This was a gross underutilisation of the state-of-the-art, public sector vaccine manufacturing plant. Approving the manufacture of the COVID vaccine would pave the way for Tamil Nadu to become a nodal centre in supplying vaccines for the southern states, the petitioner said.
The bench adjourned the case to May 19 for further hearing.
Under control, says Madurai Collector
Meanwhile, Madurai Collector T Anbalagan has said that the current COVID situation in the district is manageable in terms of admission of patients in Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai and utilisation of oxygen resources. “Beds enabled with oxygen support in the GRH are mostly getting filled these days and the State government is taking steps on a war footing to cater to the demands of medical oxygen continuously,” he said after inspecting the oxygen plant on the premises of GRH on Thursday.