The Madras High Court has asked the Centre to respond to questions raised by a plea filed before the Madurai bench about utilisation of oxygen plants at BHEL, as well as production of Covid vaccines at government-owned vaccine manufacturing units.
The Madurai bench of the Madras High court on Friday sought answers from the Centre on details about vaccine manufacturing units owned by the government, as well as steps taken by the government to utilise oxygen plants at BHEL, Tiruchirappalli, to deal with the current shortage of medical oxygen supply.
As India grapples with the second wave of the pandemic, the healthcare system has been facing a severe shortage of medical oxygen. Additionally, the vaccination policy of the Central government has faced increased challenges in the states due to a shortage in the supply of vaccine doses. The bench was hearing a writ petition that has raised the central government’s management of above two issues.
The petitioner brought to the notice that a dedicated state-of-art vaccine manufacturing unit, namely, Integrated Vaccine Complex (IVC) at Thirukalukundram, Chengalpattu, was established at the government’s direction to produce life-saving and cost-effective vaccines, primarily to minimize the demand-supply gap and to support the government in the Universal Immunization program. The complex reportedly came into existence in March 2012, at an estimated cost of Rs.594 crores and was declared a “Project of National Importance”.
The petitioner stated that, under RTI, it was learned that the complex had yet to start the manufacturing activities and raised the issue of the Rs 594 crore project lying idle for the past nine months.
Moreover, the petitioner also raised the issue of the Central government paying huge sums to private organizations for procurement of Covid-19 vaccines when the government can revive vaccine manufacturing institutes owned by the Centre and put it to effective use.
“The population of our Country is approximately 136 Crores and on a simple calculation for procurement of the vaccines to cover all the citizens, the Government has to spend large sums of money,” the plea stated, adding that, “When the Government itself is having the vaccines manufacturing institutes, such institutes [dying public sector undertakings] may be revived and they may be put into effective use, so that the Government may be in a position to cover all the citizens, besides will not be in a position to bargain with the private institutes at this difficult time.”
The court has asked the Centre to reply to the following questions:
- Whether Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. [BHEL], Trichy, has the facility for production of oxygen with three Oxygen plants, having capacity of 140 metric cube per hour, as claimed by the petitioner
- What are all the steps taken by the government to work out the possibility of production of oxygen from BHEL, Trichy
- How many government-owned vaccines manufacturing institutes are available in India and the details thereof, including their date of commencement of operation, production capacity.
- If Covaxin is developed by Bharat Biotech, with the assistance of Indian Council for Medical Research [ICMR] – National Institute of Virology [NIV], why are these vaccines developed only at a private institute, instead of utilizing the services of the existing government vaccine manufacturing institutes?
- When the Government of India is spending huge amounts for procuring the vaccines from the private enterprises, what are the steps taken by the Government to revive the existing Vaccine Institutes owned by them?
- The details as to the amount incurred by the GoI for procuring the vaccines, including Covid vaccine, per year, for the past five years
The Madurai bench of the Madras high court, headed by Justice MS Ramesh and B.Pugalendhi, has said that the centre has to submit a reply to the above questions by May 19.
Source: India Today