Mumbai: Moved by the pain and agony of several rural folks, who lost their loved ones to Coronavirus for the want of oxygen, BB Thombre, head of Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) urged his colleagues engaged in ethanol production at sugar factories to start work on oxygen production.
The second wave has taken a heavy toll on rural places. According to Thombre, no serious efforts were made to ramp up the health infrastructure before the second wave. Being a technical person, Thombre strongly felt each sugar factory with an ethanol production unit could easily convert to oxygen production. However, convincing the fraternity was a challenge. “I tried to approach NCP chief Sharad Pawar even though he was undergoing medical treatment, but a word of appeal from him to sugar producing units was necessary as he also heads the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (Pune),” he said.
After the opening of one such unit in Osmanabad district on Friday, Thombre said, “I lost six employees from my sugar factory – Natural sugar & Allied Industries in Kalamb tehsil. I have come across at least 2-3 persons from each village nearby who have succumbed to the coronavirus. Most of them died because they could not get oxygen support.”
After that a committee was announced, comprising experts and soon a significant number of sugar units started working on the grave necessity of the hour. Currently, 25 sugar units from the cooperative and private sector have successfully started converting their ethanol units for oxygen production. The machinery needed for the oxygen production has been ordered from Taiwan, Korea and other countries.
Each plant can produce 100 oxygen cylinders a day and one cylinder can cater to the requirement of one patient for 4 to 5 days. This can save hundreds of lives from the nearby areas, he said.
According to Thombre, had the state government encouraged each MLA to set up one unit in each of the 288 assembly constituencies, a number of people who died for want of oxygen could have been saved. One oxygen plant can be set up with an investment of Rs 45 to 50 lakh, which is not a huge investment. At last, the sugar units attached to VSI, WISMA and State Sugar Co-operatives federation have succeeded in this endeavour,” Thombre said.