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National Task Force on oxygen: Why has it been constituted, who are its members and their mandate

Since a significantly large number of COVID patients require oxygen support in the second wave than during the first wave, and there is a severe shortage of oxygen and complaints against the Centre’s allocation policy, the Supreme Court has set up a 12-member task force to streamline the allocation.

May 10, 2021 / 01:58 PM IST
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has formed a Task Force on Oxygen Supply Chain.

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has formed a Task Force on Oxygen Supply Chain.

After finding faults with the government's approach towards oxygen allocation to states and Union Territories (UTs), the Supreme Court on May 8 formed a 12-member National Task Force (NTF), including doctors and top medical experts, to streamline oxygen allocation.

A bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said: "A consensus has emerged that there is a need to ensure that the allotment of medical oxygen to states and UTs is made on a scientific, rational and equitable basis. At the same time, it must allow for flexibility to meet unforeseen demands due to the emergencies, which may arise within the allocated territories."

“The Union government has agreed to set up an NTF to streamline the process. This task force would be tasked, inter alia, with formulating a methodology for the scientific allocation of oxygen to states and UTs," the top court said.

What led to the formation of the task force?

The second wave of COVID-19 continues to overwhelm the Indian medical system with fresh cases crossing the 4,00,000-mark. Aggravating the situation is the paucity of critical drugs and medical oxygen.

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As per several news reports, a significantly large number of COVID patients require oxygen support in the second wave than during the first wave, leading to a severe shortage. To make up for the shortfall, production of oxygen has been ramped up. Several manufacturing companies have halted work in order to route their supplies to the hospitals in desperate need of oxygen.

International aid in the form of oxygen concentrators and cylinders have also arrived as hospitals continue to send out desperate SOS requesting oxygen.

What is the complaint against the Centre?

While the central government did chart out an oxygen distribution plan to states and UTs, several states like Delhi and Karnataka made appeals that the oxygen allocated by the Centre is far less than the requirement. The Centre argued there is no shortage and the requirement stated by states is an overestimation.

Several high courts have been holding urgent hearings on pandemic-related matters, both on oxygen and drug-related supplies and have been coming down heavily on the Centre.

Who are the members of the task force?

Bhabatosh Biswas, former Vice-Chancellor, University of Health Sciences, Kolkata; Dr Devender Singh Rana, Chairperson, Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi; Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairperson and Executive Director, Narayana Healthcare, Bengaluru; Gagandeep Kang, Professor, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, Tamil Nadu; J V Peter, Director, CMC; Naresh Trehan, Chairperson and Managing Director, Medanta Hospital and Heart Institute, Gurugram; Rahul Pandit, Director, Critical Care Medicine and ICU, Fortis Hospital, Mulund and Kalyan (Maharashtra); Saumitra Rawat, Chairman & Head, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital; Shiv Kumar Sarin, Senior Professor and Head of Department of Hepatology, and Director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), Delhi; and, Zarir F Udwadia, Consultant Chest Physician, Hinduja Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital, and Parsee General Hospital, Mumbai.

According to an order by the Supreme Court, the Union Cabinet Secretary will be the Convener of the NTF and the Union Health Secretary its ex-officio member.

What is the role of the task force?

Its primary role is to ensure timely and equitable distribution of oxygen to the states and UTs. The task force will also suggest ways to augment the supply of medical oxygen and has been tasked to plan its supply and distribution based on the current and projected demands of the states and UTs.

Furthermore, it will devise and put a transparent and open distribution network and will perform audit functions to ensure that the supplies are reaching the destinations across states.
Shreeja Singh
first published: May 10, 2021 01:58 pm

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