Telangana airlifts tankers to Rourkela in Odisha in bid to secure oxygen faster

Published : April 23, 2021 21:29 IST

Oxygen tankers being ferried by an IAF C-17 Globemaster III at Begumpet airport, Secunderabad. Photo: By Special Arrangement


In a novel, first of its kind exercise in India, the oxygen-strapped State of Telangana requisitioned the use of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) four-engined, military transport C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to pick up liquid medical oxygen (LMO) from Odisha. The air-borne exercise, it is hoped, will help Telangana procure oxygen a bit faster and meet the badly needed oxygen requirements of its rapidly growing number of COVID-19 infected patients. The number of active COVID-19 cases in Telangana stands at over 53,000, with the number of daily infections hovering around the 6,000 mark.

The exercise got off the ground from Begumpet airport on April 23, with the aircraft, piloted by Wing Commander Chaitanya and Wing Commander Nirjawan, ferrying two oxygen tankers to the Rourkela Steel Plant in Odisha. At the plant, the oxygen tankers will be filled with LMO. The tankers will return to Telangana by road since it is unsafe to fly the tankers filled with oxygen. According to the Telangana Health Minister Eatala Rajender, the airlifting of tankers will save the State three days in transport time. Speaking to Frontline, the Health Minister said: “Right now, time is the most important thing. Though we presently have liquid oxygen tanks in 22 government hospitals we requested the airlifting of LMO as a precautionary measure.”

The two tankers are the first of nine such tankers which Telangana is hoping to airlift to neighbouring States for procuring LMO. The entire process is expected to be completed by April 27, with 150 metric tonnes of LMO being ferried back to Telangana.

Speaking to Frontline, Rajender stressed that the Chandrashekhar Rao-led government was the first to go in for such an initiative. Said the Minister: “We are fully prepared and committed right from the beginning to save the lives of the people during the COVID-19 pandemic without worrying about finances and additional expenditures. Telangana will see no shortage of oxygen.”

Overseeing the airlifting operations along with Rajender were Somesh Kumar, Telangana Chief Secretary; Sunil Sharma, Principal Secretary, Transport; Syed Ali Murtaza Rizvi, Secretary, Health, Medical and Family Welfare; Preeti Meena, Director, Telangana Drug Control Administration and other bureaucrats.

On April 22, with the State unable to meet the demand for oxygen because of the spiralling number of COVID-19 cases, Rajender accused the Centre of step-motherly treatment towards States such as Telangana. He said that the Centre, instead of allocating oxygen supplies to Telangana from nearby steel plants like the ones at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh or Bellary in Karnataka, was insisting on an allocation from Rourkela in Odisha, which was around 1,700 km away. The tankers would take seven days to make the return trip after being loaded with LMO.

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