Visakhapatnam: Despite the privatization sword hanging, Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited, the corporate entity of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) has come to the rescue of the oxygen-starved country and supplied nearly 400 metric tonnes (MT) of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) to Andhra Pradesh and other states.

Another 400 MT are being prepared for supply by the end of this week. This liquid oxygen will then reach oxygen cylinder manufacturers and hospitals that have their own liquid to gas conversion plants.

The first "Oxygen Express" carrying seven empty tankers came to Vizag city, where they will be loaded with liquid oxygen for transportation to Maharashtra.

Team Mumbai Division has built a ramp overnight within 24 hours at Kalamboli goods yard to facilitate loading and unloading of tankers from flat wagons. The Ro-Ro service with 7 empty tankers departed from Kalamboli goods yard for Visakhapatnam steel plant on Wednesday. This train will move via Vasai Road, Jalgaon, Nagpur, and Raipur Jn to Visakhapatnam steel plant in the ECoR zone where it will be loaded with Liquid Medical Oxygen.

A senior RINL-VSP official said they were much aware of the pain of Covid-19 patients due to a shortage in provision of oxygen during medical treatment. "We lost many of our colleagues to the pandemic in the first and the second wave," he said.

In the last financial year as well, RINL supplied 8,842 MT of oxygen as per requirement.

RINL's air separation plant has five units of oxygen extraction plants for its 7.3 mtpa steel plant. Out of which three units have the capacity to produce 550 tonnes per unit per day and two units have the capacity to produce 600 tonnes per unit per day. Every day on an average, VSP produces 2,600 tonnes of oxygen in gas form, and 100 tonnes in liquid form-- which is supplied for medical purposes. The steel plant is supplying liquid oxygen as a social responsibility.

VSP employees said that nearly 20 of their colleagues succumbed to Covid-19 so far. Five have died in April this year. More than 100 VSP employees have been infected. "We are now supplying the reserved oxygen only for Covid-19 purposes and not for industrial purposes. This liquid gas will be filled into the tankers, which will be transported through Indian Railways' support, they added. The respective state governments can use this liquid oxygen for oxygen cylinder producers and hospitals," they said.

B Srinivas, director of Vingas Industries Private Limited, Visakhapatnam, said that they produce seven cubic-meter oxygen cylinders, which can be directly attached to the beds of patients. The company charges Rs 140 per cylinder. "We have increased the production in our plant due to huge demand," he added.

VSP employees, who have been fighting against the proposed privatization, said that plant is acting as a lifesaver for many states.

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