They say the true nature of the human spirit is often exemplified during the worst of crises. India is certainly facing one of its worst ones at present. Inundated by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, as the country’s health system gasps for breath, New Delhi has become the capital of that direness with its hospitals facing an acute shortage of life-saving oxygen supply for critically serious Covid-19 patients. Nothing indicated the precarious predicament of the city’s health system more starkly than Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘SOS’ letter to his counterparts across the country yesterday, in which he requested them to provide whatever oxygen they could spare from their states.
It was a matter of immense pride for Odisha that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had already assured oxygen supply for both New Delhi and Maharashtra – the states worst hit by the second wave – at a time when his own state has been dealing with an unprecedented surge of cases over the past many days. Thankfully, this extraordinarily noble gesture from the five-time Chief Minister has not remained an isolated one; the whole country is now rallying to overcome the oxygen shortage crisis.
Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the ruling regime has moved its attention away from state election campaigns to focus exclusively on the problem at hand. Soon after the Prime Minister chaired an urgently called meeting to review the steps taken so far to augment the availability of medical-grade oxygen and other critical medical equipment across the nation, the Central government granted a complete waiver of basic customs duty and health cess on import of oxygen and oxygen-related equipment for a period of three months.
The Indian Air Force and Indian Railways have been pressed into service to speed up the supply of oxygen to all parts of the country. The Railway Ministry has started ‘Oxygen Express’ trains to transport liquid medical oxygen tankers from places such as Rourkela, Vishakhapatnam and Jamshedpur to states such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana. Meanwhile, IAF aircraft have been flying to places such as Singapore and UAE to get oxygen containers and tankers for meeting the national shortage of the essential gas at the earliest.
Leading the contribution of India Inc. towards the cause, Tata Group joined forces with German industrial gas giant Linde to airlift 24 oxygen transport tanks to India so the nation’s oxygen transport capacity from production sites to Covid-19 hospitals get a much-needed boost. Meanwhile, SpiceJet’s air cargo arm SpiceXpress has airlifted 800 oxygen concentrators from Hong Kong that are being distributed countrywide for emergency use.
Last but not least was a wonderful gesture from the nation capital itself, where the Confederation of All India Traders announced yesterday that more than 100 leading trade associations in Delhi had jointly decided to observe a voluntary ‘Self Lockdown’ from April 26 – when the current weeklong lockdown ends – until May 2 to assist the government in controlling the rise of Covid cases.
The rare resolve with which India is collectively negotiating what seemed to be an insurmountable challenge a few days ago gives much hope that the worst will be behind it sooner rather than later.