The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister on Sunday wrote to the Union government requesting that the diversion of 80 Metric Tonnes (MT) of medical oxygen from a Sriperumbudur plant be immediately cancelled, in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases in the state. This mandatory diversion from the Inox plant that produces 140 MT medical oxygen per day in Sriperumbudur, he argues, can lead to major crises in Chennai and other districts. The state government further pointed out that calculation made by the Centre in regard to the quantity of oxygen required in the state is incorrect as consumption in Tamil Nadu will soon outgrow its current supply.
In his letter, Edappadi Palaniswami has stated that the state is attempting to reduce the number of cases but going by current trends, it would need 450MTs shortly, which is beyond its production capacity of 400 MTs. The state government points out that the latest National Medical oxygen allotment plan allocation for Tamil Nadu has been fixed at 220 MTs and based on this wrong allotment, 80 MTs of liquid oxygen is being diverted from manufacturing facilities in Sriperumbudur to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
According to data collected by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) however, the letter says, Tamil Nadu's consumption is already 310 MTs.
"As compared to the maximum active case number of around 58,000 during the previous surge in 2020, the active caseload has already increased to over a lakh today. This had increased the oxygen demand," states the letter. "The state to which the allotment has been made has a lower number of active cases than us and also have major steel industries located within their state/close to their states. Hence the diversion from the Sriperumbudur plant which supplies Chennai city with the second biggest caseload in South India seems to have no justification. This needs to be immediately corrected," it adds.
However, it is to be noted that under the National Medical oxygen allotment plan co-ordinated by PESO and the Union Government, medical oxygen produced in many private and public enterprises across the country are diverted from one state to another depending on the distance, availability, shortage and other factors.
Tamil Nadu receives liquid oxygen from the INOX plant in Kerala. The Inox plant supplies an average 55-60 metric tonnes of liquid medical oxygen everyday to hospitals in nearby districts in Tamil Nadu. Similarly, some medical oxygen from Tamil Nadu is given to Kerala. A portion of the medical oxygen produced in Andhra Pradesh is distributed to Maharashtra.