With several states facing a shortage of medical oxygen due to a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order disallowing state governments and local administrations from imposing restrictions on the movement of medical oxygen and oxygen-carrying vehicles between and within states.
The order also stated that oxygen manufacturers and suppliers will also not be forced to "limit the oxygen supplies only to hospitals of the state/UT in which they are located".
"No restriction shall be imposed on the movement of medical oxygen between the state and transport authorities shall be instructed to accordingly allow free inter-state movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles," the order said.
The order also said that there shall be no restriction on movement of oxygen-carrying vehicles into the cities, without any restrictions of timings, while also enabling inter-city supply without restriction.
Local authorities have also been directed not to attach oxygen carrying vehicles passing through a district or areas for making supplies to any particular district(s) or areas.
The order has come amid an acute shortage of oxygen in hospitals across India and allegations from the Delhi government that the police in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were blocking oxygen transport to the National Capital.
"Some hospitals in Delhi have run out of oxygen completely. They don't have any option available. I have been receiving calls, messages, e-mails. We have been making internal, makeshift arrangements, but this cannot continue for long," Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had said on Thursday, urging the Centre to ensure normal supply even if that meant taking the help of paramilitary forces.
The demand for oxygen has grown due to the second wave of COVID-19 cases.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to prepare a national plan to resolve issues including the supply of oxygen and essential drugs for the treatment of patients infected with the virus.
The order also said that state government will follow the oxygen supply plan prepared by the Empowered Group II, a group formed by the PMO comprising officials from different ministries and experts.
The order also said that it has accepted the EG-II's recommendation to prohibit the supply of oxygen for industrial purposes by manufacturers and suppliers from 22 April with the exception of nine specified industries.