Declare pandemic a natural calamity, rope in NDMA for airlifting oxygen: Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray writes to PM Modi for Centre's help

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare Covid-19 pandemic as a natural calamity, allow grants to the poor and priority groups and facilitate the airlifting of oxygen to meet the rising shortage and also make available Remdesivir, the demand for which is increasing.

In two separate letters, Thackeray has requested the PM to direct authorities to grant compulsory licence as per section 92 of Indian Patents Act, 1970, to facilitate approval to exporting units to produce and sell Remdesivir in the domestic market. This is necessary, as the Centre has banned the Remdesivir exports.

‘‘In view of the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the state, a mini lockdown is a necessity. Covid-19 pandemic may be notified as a natural calamity for the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). Accordingly, the state may be allowed to pay gratuitous relief of Rs 100 per adult and Rs 60 per child per day during the mini lockdown to all Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and Priority HouseHold (PHH) family members whose names are included in the ration cards. The said expenditure be allowed from the SDRF during the current fiscal,’’ said Thackeray. He called for the release of the first instalment of the Central share of the SDRF to tide over the financial situation arising out of the pandemic.

Further, the CM has urged that the timeline for submitting the GST returns for March and April be extended by three months for small and medium taxpayers. In order to help many small-scale industries, businesses and start-ups, who have taken bank loans under different Central schemes, Thackeray has requested that the banks may be asked to defer the instalments of repayment of loans that are coming due at least without interest in the first quarter . This is akin to force majeure for business relationships between such entrepreneurs and banks.

Referring to the surge in oxygen demand amid rising Covid cases, Thackeray said the biggest concern was liquid medical oxygen (LMO) supplies. ‘‘The requirement of medical oxygen is crossing the total capacity of 1,200 metric tonnes (MT) of LMO manufacturing. We have projected the demand will be closed to 2,000 MT per day by April-end,’’ he noted.

Thackeray said the state had started lifting oxygen from nearby locations but some of them are long-distance and beset with disruption risks. ‘‘I request to press in the services of the National Disaster Management Authority for this movement and all options, including airlifting of these quantities be considered,’’ he added.

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