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MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: With the country’s health care infrastructure crumbling under the pressure of the ferocious second wave of covid-19 cases, with hospital beds and medical oxygen running out, India Inc is lending a helping hand in the fight against the pandemic.

Companies such as Tata Group, Reliance Industries Limited, JSW Group, Adani, ITC, and Jindal Steel and Power, to name a few, have come forward to help hospitals treating Covid-19 patients by supplying medical oxygen, cryogenic vessels, portable concentrators, and generators.

On Tuesday, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) formed a Task Force on Oxygen Supply Chain to work with central and state governments to augment oxygen supply by working on domestic capacity enhancement and imports. It will also look at logistics issues between states, including those related to transportation, non-availability of cylinders, policy-level interventions, and so on.

TV Narendran, president-designate, CII, and CEO and managing director of Tata Steel, said, “There is a dire need to increase the availability of oxygen and address the logistical issues in transporting oxygen across the country. The biggest bottleneck is the shortage of cryogenic containers. Tatas are importing 36 cryogenic vessels by this month-end. Tata Steel is also supplying over 600 MT medical oxygen from its plants to hospitals".

JSW Steel is supplying 1,000 tonne of oxygen per day and plans to ramp it up. Seshagiri Rao M.V.S., chairman, CII Task Force on Oxygen Supply Chain and joint managing director and group CFO, JSW Steel Ltd, said the task force has proposed to the government to use direct vessels to import liquid oxygen and remove other logistical bottlenecks in order to reduce the transit time, ensure speedy clearances and transport to the destinations through green corridors and augment capacity to produce additional oxygen using supercritical process.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is also supplying 700 tonne liquid medical oxygen to Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Daman, Diu & Nagar Haveli. The company plans to scale this up to 1,000 tonne.

To be sure, American firms have also got into the act after the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with leaders of the US business community, The US Chamber of Commerce and the US India Business Council to leverage private sector support to help India battle it’s covid-19 infection surge.

In a tweet Google Inc CEO Sundar Pichai said “Devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India. Google & Goolgers are providing 135 crore in funding to @GiveIndia, @UNICEF for medical supplies, orgs supporting high-risk communities, and grants to help spread critical information."

In a blogpost Google’s country head and vice president India Sanjay Gupta explained the $18 million ( 135 crore) funding. “This includes two grants from Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, totalling 20 Crore INR ($2.6 million USD). The first is to GiveIndia to provide cash assistance to families hit hardest by the crisis to help with their everyday expenses. The second will go to UNICEF to help get urgent medical supplies, including oxygen and testing equipment, to where it’s needed most in India," he said.

"It also includes donations from our ongoing employee giving campaign — so far more than 900 Googlers have contributed 3.7 Crore INR ($500,000 USD) for organizations supporting high-risk and marginalized communities," Gupta added.

Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted that the company will donate to support relief efforts on ground without sharing any details.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed his solidarity with India on his platform: "I'm thinking of everyone in India and hoping we get this virus under control soon. Facebook is working with UNICEF to help people understand when they should go to the hospital and giving $10 million to emergency response efforts. More soon and I hope you stay healthy," he wrote in a Facebook post.

E-commerce giant Amazon India has joined hands with ACT Grants, Temasek Foundation and Pune Platform for Covid-19 Response (PPCR) along with other partners to urgently airlift over 8,000 oxygen concentrators and 500 bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines from Singapore, the company said on Monday. This medical equipment will be donated to hospitals and public institutions to augment their capacity to help covid-19 infected patients across multiple cities.

Amazon said it will bear the cost of airlifting these oxygen concentrators and BiPAP machines, procured through multiple funders.

Meanwhile, CEOs of 40 US companies have created a global task force to help India fight covid 19, said Deloitte CEO Punit Renjen in a LinkedIn post. Deloitte, which has a workforce of 50,000 people in India, has already provided 1,000 oxygen concentrators so far and is sourcing another 11,000 soon, Renjen said. He said the task force will look at immediate needs like oxygen concentrators, oxygen cylinders and generators, home monitoring kits and critical medicines.

Back home, Vistara has offered help to government organisations, hospitals in immediate need of air logistics. The airline has also offered to fly doctors and nurses representing government organisations, free of cost, across its domestic network.

Recognising the unprecendented covid emergency in the country, last week, FMCG major, ITC Ltd, said it has tied up with Linde India to air freight 24 cryogenic ISO containers of 20 tons each from Asian countries that will help with the transportation of medical oxygen in the country as hospitals in India struggle to fulfil demand for oxygen in their facilities. Linde is a supplier of medical oxygen.

ITC is also airlifting large numbers of oxygen concentrators for distribution, it added. Its paperboards unit in Bhadrachalam has also commenced supply of oxygen to identified government hospitals in the state.

"ITC is committed to support the G\government in its fight against the debilitating pandemic and will continue to explore other avenues to help address the challenges emerging during these trying times," the company said.

Several others, such as the Adani Group, importing 4 cryogenic tanks with 80 tonne liquid oxygen from Saudi Arabia, have also pitched in with the efforts. ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India is supplying 220 tonne of liquid oxygen daily to Gujarat.

In Haryana, the OP Jindal Modern School operated by Jindal Stainless in Hisar is being converted into an emergency covid hospital with ICU beds. Jindal Stainless managing director Abhyuday Jindal said the company’s oxygen facility in Hisar was continuously feeding oxygen in and around Hisar hospitals and will also feed the oxygen to this new facility. “With a country-first motto in mind, we are ready to supply more oxygen to hospitals even if this is at the expense of the production," he said.

In view of the pandemic, the oxygen plant at Hisar facility of Jindal Stainless is running up to a capacity of 150 percent. The plant has increased its oxygen production capacity to 7.5 -8 MT per day from 6 MT per day.

On Monday, packaged consumer goods maker Procter & Gamble said it will contribute Rs50 crore to vaccinate over 5 lakh citizens through partnerships with government and local authorities in India. This contribution towards vaccines will be on top of P&G’s earmarked CSR funds for the current year, it said.

“In the current situation and going forward, vaccines play a critical role in containing the spread of the virus," Madhusudan Gopalan, CEO, P&G Indian Subcontinent said, without disclosing the states where it plans to offer free vaccines.

(Ayushman Baruah and Utpal Bhaskar contributed to this story.)

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