India is currently reeling under what is being termed as the ‘second-wave’ of Covid-19 cases, which have witnessed an unprecedented rise in the number of cases in the country, crossing record global highs every day. Along with the increased number of patients, social media is also seeing an amplified number of SOS calls, and several states are reporting an oxygen crisis - from hospitals to individual patients in home isolation. The Home Ministry, last Monday, however, said that India has enough stock of medical oxygen, but the issue is its transportation from the producing states to high-demand areas which the government is trying to address. Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Piyush Goyal also said the turnaround time of oxygen-carrying tankers was reduced to 1-2 hours from 4-5 days by taking the help of the Indian Air Force transport aircraft which have been ferrying empty tankers. “We have enough stock of oxygen. The issue is transportation which we are trying to resolve by active involvement of all stake holders," Goyal told a press conference here.
While social media is filled with news of people donating oxygen cylinders, people trying to amplify help and SOS messages, Bollywood celebrity Kangana Ranaut has a difference in opinion — she feels that people using oxygen cylinders and making oxygen plants should ‘return’ their share back to nature.
“Everybody is building more and more oxygen plants, getting tons and tons of oxygen cylinders, how are we compensating for all the oxygen that we are forcefully drawing from the environment? It seems we learnt nothing from our mistakes and catastrophes they cause #PlantTrees," she wrote on Twitter.
“Along with announcing more and more oxygen for humans, governments must announce relief for nature also, people who are using this oxygen should also pledge to work on improving the air quality, for how long we going to be miserable pests only taking never giving back to nature?" she added.
Along with announcing more and more oxygen for humans, governments must announce relief for nature also, people who are using this oxygen should also pledge to work on improving the air quality, for how long we going to be miserable pests only taking never giving back to nature?— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) May 3, 2021
Ranaut’s tweets implied that oxygen plants and cylinders seemed to imply that oxygen for medical purposes is derived from nature - and could just be given back to nature. Other than just unscientific, several people pointed out how her hot-take was insensitive at a time when hundreds of Indians are dying due to lack of oxygen in hospitals.
I get that you are making a larger point about better air, but even in Switzerland, if a patient needs medical Oxygen, the patient needs medical Oxygen. Making them lie outside next to Lake Geneva is not going to help.— Reeky Coleslaw (@RickieKhosla) May 3, 2021
In case you’re still doubtful about Kangana Ranaut’s tweets, medical oxygen, which is an essential medicine that is used to treat a range of ailments and in several medical procedures, is commercially made. In India, oxygen is commercially produced largely for use in manufacturing industries such as steel plants, fabrication units, chemical industries, glass manufacturing and paper and pulp industries. In pre-Covid-19 times, industrial clients accounted for the lion’s share of oxygen use. However, in April this year, the central government permitted companies producing industrial oxygen to produce its medical variant in order to meet the demand created by the Covid-19 crisis.
There are four to five large manufacturers in India which include Linde India, Inox Air Products and Goyal MG Gases. These companies make liquid oxygen. There are also other companies that run oxygen generation plants and many are based in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Read our explainer here.Is planting more trees the solution to help generate more oxygen enough? The answer is no. Two studies published in the journal Nature Sustainability found that large-scale tree planting is not a simple solution to climate change, and one of the two researchers said that new forests may not offer the desired financial incentives and reduce biodiversity. It will also have little impact on carbon emissions.