Last Sunday, the Railways had announced it will run "Oxygen Express" trains over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country.
Empty tankers will be loaded with medical oxygen from Visakhapatnam, Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Bokaro, it had said.
Hospitals in many states have complained of a shortage in their oxygen supply and sent out SOS messages, requiring the government to take urgent measures to increase the production and supply of the life-saving gas. Modi noted that the Railways and Air Force have been deployed to reduce the travel time of oxygen tankers and assured states of the Centre's full support in the fight against the pandemic.
The meeting with the chief ministers also saw a controversy with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's decision to telecast his comments live during the interaction with Prime Minister Modi drawing disapproval from the latter, who chided him for "breaking protocol". Later, the Union government officials accused the AAP leader of "playing politics".
The prime minister also expressed his displeasure during the interaction over the issue, saying "this is strictly against our tradition, our protocol... that some Chief Minister is showing a live telecast of an in-house meeting." "This is not appropriate. One should always maintain restraint," Modi said, prompting a defensive Kejriwal to say that he will keep this in mind in future and offered an apology in case he had made a "mistake or spoken harshly".
It was the prime minister's third meeting with chief ministers in the last five weeks, while he also held his fourth review meeting in one week to review the oxygen availability situation, officials said.
Later, at a virtual meeting with leading oxygen manufacturers, Prime Minister Modi called for utilising the industry's full potential to meet the demand of medical oxygen in the coming days, saying there is a need to increase the availability of oxygen cylinders as well as to upgrade logistical facilities for its transportation.
In his interaction with the oxygen manufacturers, including Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, Modi urged the industry to utilise tankers meant to transport other gases for oxygen supply, saying the time now is not only to deal with the challenges but also to provide solutions in a very short time.
Amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country, the demand for medical oxygen has gone through the roof.
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