Mumbai: Politicians and religious institutions start oxygen banks to help needy
Kunal Patil

Following the shortage of oxygen cylinders within Mumbai and across Maharashtra, public representatives have begun a unique initiative of setting up oxygen banks in their constituencies. As a part of this initiative, they have procured oxygen concentrators and cylinders for the patients in their constituency and are offering it either for free or at a nominal rate.

Zeeshan Siddique, Congress Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Bandra (East), on Wednesday, announced that he procured 500 oxygen concentrators for the people in his constituency. Speaking to the Free Press Journal, Siddique informed that he has also started a war room, which people can contact if they need oxygen. His volunteers would then reach out to them and install the concentrator at their place.

"We will be giving it to the patients for as long as they need it. After the patient recovers, we will take back the concentrator and may give it to some other person after sanitising it," Siddique said.

He added that, within a couple of hours of tweeting the availability of oxygen concentrators, his war room received more than 100 requests. "The oxygen level of patients can fall drastically. It can lead to a lot of confusion in case beds are not available. These concentrators come in handy till the time a bed can be arranged for the patient," he added.

Amin Patel, senior Congress MLA from Mumbadevi constituency in south Mumbai, said that, witnessing the surge in cases and crisis of oxygen, he tied up with local NGOs to start a small oxygen bank for the people in his constituency. "We were the first constituency to start an oxygen bank last year. It helped us save many lives, as we were able to help thousands of Mumbaikars living in our constituency with oxygen support in a short time," Patel said.

Patel said, now that the cases in south Mumbai have started to decline gradually, the demand for cylinders had also started to fall. "We are still keeping all the cylinders filled because we don't know when the cases will rise again. Last year, the need for oxygen was not so much. But we were prepared and all these cylinders and concentrators came in use this year," he added.

Following suit, several religious institutions, such as the Jumma Masjid Trust, have also started their own oxygen banks. Shoaib Khatib, chairman of the social work wing of the mosque, said that they have 45 oxygen cylinders and one concentrator, which they are giving out to the patients in exchange for a nominal rate. "We take a refundable deposit amount and don't charge the refilling fees for the oxygen. We have volunteers who deliver the cylinders at the doorstep of those who need it," said Khatib.

Meanwhile, at the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) standing committee meeting on Wednesday, a proposal was cleared to acquire oxygen concentrators. The civic body had floated a tender to procure 1,200 cylinders. However, only one supplier had raised a bid for the tender, saying that he has the capacity to supply 300 concentrators. If the civic body wants more, then they would have to pay more.

Yashwant Jadhav, standing committee chairperson, told the administration to place an order for 1,200 concentrators at the quoted price. If they don't do so, then the company would be blacklisted.

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