Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Sunday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking immediate cancellation of the diversion of 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen from manufacturing facilities in his state to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The request came amid a severe shortage of medical oxygen as India tackles the second wave of the pandemic.

Palaniswami said a high number of coronavirus patients in the state need medical oxygen to recover from the disease. He added that the state would require 450 metric tonnes of oxygen shortly, which is above its production capacity of 400 metric tonnes.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief wrote that Tamil Nadu had wrongly been allocated lesser oxygen quota despite the high number of active cases. “As compared to the maximum active case number of around 58,000 during the previous surge in 2020, the active caseload has increased to over a lakh today,” he added.

Palaniswami referred to data, published by Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisations, and said that the consumption of oxygen in Tamil Nadu has already reached 310 metric tonnes as against the “inadequate allotment” of 220 metric tonnes.

“The latest National Medical Oxygen allotment plan allocation for Tamil Nadu has been fixed at 220 MTs and based on the wrong allotment, 80 MTs of liquid oxygen has been diverted from the manufacturing facilities located in Sriperumpudur to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana,” Palaniswami added. “This is based on the wrong position that the existing oxygen consumption in Tamil Nadu is lower than the manufacturing capacity. Also, the states to which the allotment has been made have lower number of active cases than us and also have major steel industries located within the their state/close to their states.”

Palaniswami said the diversion from the plant in Sriperumbudur, which supplies oxygen to Chennai city, seems to have no justification. This move, he added, needs to be corrected immediately.

Though Tamil Nadu has never imposed any restrictions so far and is always ready to support other states in dealing with pandemic, such mandatory diversion of liquid oxygen from the state can lead to a “major crisis” in Chennai and other districts, the chief minister said.

As coronavirus cases in the country surge at an unprecedented scale, hospitals across the country are facing an acute shortage of oxygen. The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies, while threatening to stop admissions of new patients.

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