The shortage of oxygen cylinders in India has emerged as a problem as big as the global pandemic itself. With the rise in COVID-19 cases in Assam, and especially in Guwahati, there are increasing concerns regarding the availability of oxygen cylinders in the city.
EastMojo spoke to three retail oxygen suppliers in Guwahati, all of who mentioned that they are facing a shortage of oxygen cylinders since they are manufactured in other states of India, most of which have taken a major hit due to the second wave of COVID-19.
A.K. Sutradhar from Rass Cryogenics said, “Currently, we are unable to increase our stock. There is a scarcity of cylinders due to the increase of COVID-19 cases in Assam. The cylinders that used to cost Rs 12,000 are now being sold for Rs 15,000. We are only catering to the needs of our regular customers as of now.”
Speaking along similar lines, Biswajit Kalita from New Surgical Mart said that he receives around 20-25 calls every day on enquiries related to the availability of oxygen cylinders.
“Around 15 customers visit us daily, but we are only able to provide cylinders to 2-3 customers,” said Kalita. He further added that if the dealers deny providing extra stock, there is nothing he can do to meet the rising demand.
We also spoke to Meghalaya Oxygen Pvt Ltd and Premier Cryogenics Ltd, two leading oxygen manufacturing companies in Assam. While the former mostly deals with private hospitals, the latter deals with almost 70 per cent of the government hospitals in Assam.
Pravin Jain, Director, Meghalaya Oxygen Pvt. Ltd. said, “Right now the oxygen requirement of the hospitals is twice what it used to be. We are, however, increasing the production to meet the demands. Assam is at an early stage of the second wave of COVID-19, yet the demand is huge.”
On April 26, Assam Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma took to Twitter to mention that Assam is consuming 20 MT of oxygen per day.
“Due to our concerted efforts including operationalisation of new PSA plants over last ten days, today our Oxygen production capacity has reached 61 MT per day. We have also expanded our storage capacity to 468 MT,” the tweet further read.
Meanwhile, it was also made clear by most oxygen manufacturers and retailers that the concern is over the limited number of cylinders and not oxygen. It is also the reason for retailers not being able to provide oxygen to individuals.