In the huge surge in the second wave of Covid that has seen more cases of breathlessness and a rise in demand for oxygen, the oxygen exports from India doubled, government data reveals.
Between April 2020 and January 2021, India exported over 9,000 metric tonnes of oxygen.
In the financial year 2020, only 4,500 metric tonnes of oxygen were exported but inexplicably, it was doubled since.
From January 2020, when India was exporting 352 metric tonnes of oxygen, the exports increased by a staggering 734 per cent in January 2021.
The country exported 2,193 metric tonnes of oxygen in December – a 308 per cent increase compared to 538 metric tonnes in December 2019.
The export data for February and March 2021 have not been made public yet.
These details raise new questions on government policy at a time several states have flagged an oxygen emergency.
Yesterday, top Delhi hospitals said they had only a few more hours of oxygen left, when new tankers arrived late at night.
The Delhi High Court pulled up the Centre on its decision to ban oxygen for industrial use from tomorrow. “Why not do it today itself? Why wait for April 22? Lives are at stake. Are you going to tell patients to wait till April 22 for oxygen,” the court questioned.
“Economic interests can’t override human lives. Else we are heading for a disaster.”
The Centre had argued recently that private hospitals give excess oxygen to patients for “psychological purposes”, leading to misuse. All states including Delhi have been advised to rationalise the use of oxygen and not administer oxygen to patients who do not clinically need it, the Centre said.
After crisis calls from states, a high-level review meet was chaired yesterday by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and attended by Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, NITI Aayog (Health) member Dr VK Paul, and others.
The Home Secretary pointed out the steep growth in number of cases all across the country. From 20,000 cases reported on January 1, India has almost 10 times more cases (more than 2,00,000 cases) reported daily since April 15.