NEW DELHI: The Union home ministry, to ensure smooth and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country as it battles a second Covid wave, issued an order under the Disaster Management Act on Thursday directing all the states/UTs to ensure that no restriction is imposed on the inter-state or intra-state movement of medical oxygen and oxygen carrying vehicles.
In a key direction that forms part of the order, the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes, except those exempted by the government, shall be prohibited from April 22, 2021 and until further orders.
The order asked the states/UTs to ensure that there are no curbs placed on oxygen manufacturers and suppliers to limit oxygen supplies only to hospitals of the state/UT in which they are located. It also called for the free movement of oxygen carrying vehicles into the cities, without any restriction of timings, while enabling inter-city supply without any restriction.
As per the home ministry order, no authority shall attach the oxygen carrying vehicles passing through the district or areas for making supplies specific to any particular district(s) or area.
States/UTs shall strictly abide by the supply plan of medical oxygen prepared by Empowered Group-II and as revised from time-to-time.
Most importantly, district magistrates, deputy commissioners and senior superintendents of police (SSPs) and deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) have been made personally liable for implementation of the above directions.
The MHA order under the DM Act replaces the earlier ‘advisories’ sent to the states/UT governments prescribing similar measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen for Covid-19 management.
Any violation of Thursday’s order will invite penal provisions outlined under Section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act 2005, said a home ministry official. The sections concerned lay down penalties including imprisonment of 1-2 years or/and fine for different violations such as obstructing a government officer from discharging functions under the Act, making false claim, misappropriating money or materials; offences by a department of the government as well as offences by companies.
The home ministry on Thursday said an MHA order was issued on March 23, 2021, under the Disaster Management Act stating that there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods. Pointing to the additional restrictions on certain activities and weekend lockdowns/curfews currently in force in various states/UTs, the home ministry in its order said that the rapid rise in Covid cases required availability of adequate and uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen for managing moderate and severe Covid cases. “…With the increasing cases, the medical oxygen supply will need to keep pace with the requirements of the states/UTs,” it underlined.
Stating that medical oxygen was an essential public health commodity and any impediment in the supplies of medical oxygen in one part of the country might critically impact the management of patients suffering from Covid-19 in other parts of the country, the home ministry recalled that the empowered group-II, which is mandated to coordinate medical logistics, had recently reviewed the supply of oxygen for industrial use in order to divert the same to meet the rising demand for medical oxygen in the country and save precious lives.
Based on recommendations of EG-II, the government has barred the supply of industrial oxygen by manufacturers and suppliers from April 22 and till further orders, with the exception of nine exempted industries. MHA stated that keeping in view the requisitions of medical oxygen and to ensure its smooth supplies to the states/ UTs concerned, EG-II, in consultations with the states/UTs and oxygen manufactures etc., had recently prepared a supply plan, “which is required to be followed by the states, UTs and all the agencies concerned”.
Accordingly, the home secretary, who is also chairperson of the national executive committee, on Thursday issued an order under the DM Act asking all the states/UTs to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen across the country for proper management of Covid-19 patients.

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