IFFCO is building four oxygen plants as Covid crisis grips India

‘A dedicated team is working on this project. IFFCO will try to commission it as soon as possible for the service of the nation’

Indian agri-co-op giant IFFCO says it is building four new oxygen plants as desperate shortages hamper hospital efforts to treat Covid-19.

The news comes as a fresh wave of the pandemic has plunged the country’s health system into crisis, with record figures on Saturday (24 April) showing 2,600 deaths and 340,000 new infections.

With hospitals running out of oxygen to treat patients, the Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative is spending R30 crore (£2.9m) to build four plants which will supply the health sector for free.

The plants will be built over the next two weeks in Kalol (Gujarat), Aonla and Phulpur (Uttar Pradesh) and at Paradeep (Odisha), the co-op says.

“The order has been already issued,” IFFCO told Indian press agency PTI. “It will take at least 15 days from today to transport, install and commission an oxygen plant. A dedicated team is working on this project. IFFCO will try to commission it as soon as possible for the service of the nation.”

Managing director Dr US Awasthi said that IFFCO will fill up the oxygen cylinders free of cost for hospitals, but they need to bring their own cylinders for refill. A security deposit will be taken if cylinders are taken from IFFCO to avoid hoarding of oxygen.

IFFCO isn’t the only co-op stepping up to help with the crisis. engineers of Banas Dairy in the Banaskantha district of North Gujarat set up an oxygen plant in 72 hours flat to supply its district medical college, the Hindu Business Line reported.

Meanwhile, the National Cooperative Development Corporation has been drafted by the national health ministry to help provide medical supplies during the crisis.

In a statement, managing director Sundeep Nayak said: “NCDC stands committed to lend Rs 10,000 crore [£962m] to co-operatives either to set up new healthcare facilities or to upgrade the existing ones.”

The loans come through the Ayushman Sahakar scheme, launched by the NCDC last October in response to the pandemic, to upgrade India’s health infrastructure. It is looking to increase the number of beds in the country’s 51 co-operative hospitals – with the current tally standing at 5,000.

The scheme covers establishment, modernisation, expansion, repairs, renovation of hospital and healthcare and education infrastructure.

Kerala’s state minister for co-operation, Kadakampally Surendran, said co-ops in the state have pledged Rs 200 crore (£19m) towards vaccination efforts in the region.

The co-op sector held an online meeting with the minister and promised support to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF).

And in Mumbai the state government has ordered that all co-op elections, including in housing societies, be postponed till August 31 as part of efforts to control the virus. The state has been postponing the elections since May 2020.