KEY POINTS

  • Financial hub of Maharashtra to need 2,000 MT oxygen per day by April-end
  • State-owned oil marketing firm to supply oxygen free of cost in the south
  • Capital Delhi overtakes Mumbai in number of daily infections

Asia's richest man and oil tycoon, Mukesh Ambani, has offered to send 100 tons of oxygen to western India's hospitals struggling to cope with a deadly second wave of COVID-19. The financial hub of Mumbai, along with the wider Maharashtra state, is expected to require 2,000 metric tonnes of oxygen per day by April-end.

Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd, which operates the world's biggest refining complex in the western part of India, has agreed to distribute 100 tons of oxygen, Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde said in a tweet. Mumbai is home to the Reliance headquarters and Ambani's famed $2 billion private residence.

Oil marketing companies have pitched in to address the acute shortage of medical-grade oxygen as a surge in infection pushed India past Brazil to be the second-worst-hit country. State-run Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited said it will supply around 1.5 tonnes of medical oxygen per day to government hospitals in the southern state of Kerala.

India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, whose Reliance is acquiring Future Group for $3.4 billion India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, whose Reliance is acquiring Future Group for $3.4 billion Photo: AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA

Reliance Industries has started distributing oxygen free of cost to Maharashtra from Jamnagar in neighboring Gujarat, a company official said on the condition of anonymity due to company's internal policy, Bloomberg reported.

The official said that oxygen streams meant for the company's petroleum coke gasification units have been made suitable for medical use before releasing to the hospitals. 

Bharat Petroleum has built up a stockpile of 20 tons of oxygen which is suitable for medical use at its Kochi refinery. The second-largest oil marketing company had distributed oxygen to hospitals in south India when the pandemic surged last year.

India's COVID-19 situation is turning grimmer with each passing hour as the country recorded over 217,353 infections in the last 24 hours, taking the total cases to over 14.2 million. A shortage of hospital beds, oxygen, medicines and vaccine doses have aggravated the crisis.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray wrote in a letter to the federal government that  the state’s medical oxygen requirement is projected to reach 2,000 metric tonnes per day by April-end from the current 1,200 metric tonnes.

Mumbai was leading the tally until capital Delhi overtook it this week. The city reported 17,282 cases on Wednesday. As many as 104 patients died on Wednesday due to COVID-19, the highest number since November. The city's biggest crematorium, Nigambodh Ghat, has witnessed the number of daily cremations go up from 15 per day to over 30.

India's top drug regulatory body approved Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use on Monday as several parts of the country including Maharashtra experienced vaccine severe shortages.