The Government of India through Ministry of Commerce and Industry published a notification on April 30th whereby Para 2.25 of Foreign Trade Policy, 2015-20 was revised to include import of oxygen concentrators for personal use through post, courier or e-commerce portals in the list of exempted categories where ‘Custom clearance is sought as gifts’ till July 31st.
The notification though seems a boon but to what extent? It leaves out the scope for Hospitals, Medical Clinics, and other COVID facilities to procure Oxygen Concentrators without further delay. The notification clearly states that ‘the clearance sought as gift’ applies for ‘personal use’. This could go wide out of the mark, when the masses who are waiting to be admitted in Hospitals while standing in long queues day in and day out, and the Hospitals/ other facilities who are waiting for the Supplier to fulfill their allocated demands for oxygen so that they could take in more patients are only waiting for the Custom clearance because the Government could only care about a few (Personal Use).
The government’s failure to anticipate the nationwide demand for oxygen and the aforesaid notification that is just limited to the man of means is abhorrent at par when the entire world is witnessing the ongoing crisis of this Country.
A jiff of the same was seen in Delhi High Court on Monday during the proceedings related to the supply of medical oxygen in Delhi was lead by the bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli when they asked Mr. Amit Mahajan, counsel appearing for the centre to provide details of oxygen concentrators that are stuck at the customs department for clearance. Certain facts were emerged after the statement made by Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal that 3,000 oxygen concentrators belonging to the Max Hospital were stuck with the customs department.
Mr. Mahajan then stated that the number of concentrators is dynamic and 48,000 consignments have been cleared. The bench then sought details on the oxygen concentrators waiting for the clearance by customs.
A petrifying situation took an apprise last Sunday when three hospitals in Delhi raised an SOS that they were running out of oxygen. It was notified that including a doctor, 12 patients died at one of the Major Hospital due to oxygen shortage while the government was fasten to its statement that they are doing the best they can. Was it for the best that these oxygen cylinders held by the Customs under the garb of legal formalities could not reach the needy? Only the centre could answer.
Then there is another notification by the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance on April 24 that waives off the Customs duty and the health cess for three months on import of Oxygen Concentrators and other medical supplies till July 31st. However, the government was not clear about the exemption and as from what date the same should be applied. Since the release of notification there could be counts of oxygen cylinders and other medical equipments including the concentrators waiting to be released by the customs that may not get this benefit and may be delayed in the process while the patient is still waiting due to the circulation of notification in different departments and the fate of deliveries that reaches the country on/ after July 31st and released later. Will they be exempted?
Delhi reported over 400 deaths for the second consecutive day yesterday. Delhi also registered 20,394 new coronavirus cases, pushing the overall infection count 11,94,946.