India Supreme Court constitutes national task force for allocation of medical oxygen

The Supreme Court of India on Saturday formed a 12-member national task force to formulate a scientific, rational and equitable methodology for the allocation of medical oxygen to states and union territories.

Since the beginning of the second wave of coronavirus infections in India the country has been facing an acute shortage of supply of medical oxygen. Although the quantity of oxygen being produced in the country is sufficient to meet the demand, the problem of shortage can be attributed to its inability to procure the entire quantity of oxygen being produced and deficiencies in distribution.

Last week, the court had directed the union government to work with the states and maintain a buffer stock of oxygen. The task force was constituted after a consensus emerged that there is a need to establish a transparent and effective mechanism to allocate medical oxygen. The court observed that the task force will provide valuable inputs to the central government to enable it to “go beyond finding ad-hoc solutions to the present problems” and prepare for the future. The task force will assess the availability and need of medical oxygen, facilitate the use of technology for its distribution, and hold audits within states to ensure accountability in the utilization of the allocated oxygen. It will also recommend measures to ensure the availability of essential drugs and medicines.

The task force comprises members who are “renowned national experts with diverse experience in health institutions.” It also has the discretion to employ the human resources of the central government and create sub-groups for help. The court also mandated concerned departments of the union and state governments and all healthcare facilities to facilitate the work of the task force whenever required.

Until the task force makes its recommendations, the central government will continue to allocate medical oxygen subject to the modifications made by the Supreme Court or any of the high courts.