COVID-19 in Mumbai: BMC's contract with oxygen suppliers lapsed in April

While the city has been grappling with the shortage of oxygen, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) contract with its vendors for the supply of oxygen cylinders lapsed on April 9 this year. Earlier, in April, 2019, the civic body had awarded the contract of oxygen supply to two Navi Mumbai-based private firms. The firms were responsible for supplying Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved oxygen cylinders to various civic body-run hospitals and dispensaries. The contract was awarded after it got cleared by the standing committee and it was valid till April 9, 2021.

When the Free Press Journal contacted the suppliers, they said that they have continued to supply oxygen cylinders to the civic body despite the contract terminating. "We have continued to supply the cylinders as per the contract. BMC has said that they will extend the contract. The paperworks might have been temporarily delayed due to the ongoing pandemic," said a vendor. "As per my knowledge, the tender will be extended. We were not told to stop the supply. Moreover, this is an emergency situation, so we cannot wait for the paperwork. People's lives are at stake," said another vendor.

Meanwhile, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects) P Velarasu said that the contract will be extended and will be given to the said suppliers. Another senior official of the civic body, however, said that the crisis of oxygen supply didn't happen because the tenders lapsed. "Even though the period of the contract lapsed, the supply remained intact. This is an emergency and we didn't wait for official paperwork. I am sure the administration will follow the due procedure soon," said the official. "The pressure on BMC has been high. Besides civic hospitals, we had to supply oxygen to other private hospitals as well as many of their private suppliers are facing hindrances in production," the official added.

Meanwhile, Vinod Mishra, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) corporator and group leader of the party in the civic body, has blamed the civic administration for mismanagement. "The civic body is buying Remdesivir at a higher market price and floating tender worth crores for procuring canvas shoes. However, they haven't renewed the tender for oxygen procurement, even though this is a more important issue," Mishra told FPJ. "This is complete mismanagement and the administration is keeping people's lives at stake," he added.

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