The allocation of oxygen across India, till now based on the number of beds and ICU usage, needs a complete revamp that takes into account evolving needs like home quarantine and ambulance usage, the Supreme Court told the centre today. It also called for a complete audit of the system so as to give it a pan-India view that fixes accountability once stocks are released.  

Hearing the matter of the government’s plan for oxygen allocation in the face of shortages faced by various states, especially Delhi, a Supreme Court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said the centre’s existing formula based on the number of beds requires a complete revamp.

“When you prepared the formula, not everyone wanted to go into an ICU. Many required oxygen at home. The centre’s formula does not take into account transportation, ambulance, and Covid-care facilities,” Justice Chandrachud said.

“We need to do look at the issue pan-India…an oxygen audit is necessary. What is the accountability once stocks are released?” the court asked, taking into consideration the logistics that follow the allocation and the modality for distribution to hospitals.

The court also mentioned the potential for a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and sought to know what preparations were being made for such an eventuality.

“When the third wave comes, how will you deal with it? What is the plan? Suppose containers not available, what can be done?” the court asked the central government, to which the centre replied: “The Supreme Court can guide us.”

To Justice MR Shah’s question on tracking the oxygen supplied to states — about how to ensure the supplies are not used for black-marketing — the centre said the state governments are tracking their usage.

“Uttar Pradesh has placed GPS on tankers…In Mumbai, tracking tankers is happening in real time,” the centre said.

The Supreme Court had yesterday directed the centre to submit a plan for ensuring Delhi received its quota of around 700 metric tonnes of oxygen per day. The Centre alleged that the problem in Delhi was not one of supply but of mismanagement.

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