Media reports claiming that oxygen concentrators sent to India by other countries were waiting at warehouses pending clearance from the Customs authorities have been dismissed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as “incorrect” and “without any basis”.
Pointing out that 3,000 oxygen concentrators had been received as aid to supplement the efforts against Covid-19 by the government of India as well states and Union Territories, the ministry maintained that these had either been “delivered” to the identified tertiary care institutions, or “had been dispatched for delivery”.
“The relief material has been dispatched through road and air too. There are no oxygen concentrators lying in the warehouse of the Customs Department, it is clarified,” the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
“It has been reported in some sections of the media that oxygen concentrators are pending at the Customs warehouse for getting clearance from the Custom authorities. The news is totally incorrect, not based on facts and without any basis,” the statement said.
The ministry noted that the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) had clarified that there is no such pendency with Indian Customs. “The Indian Customs is swiftly clearing all consignments & no such figures of pendency exist across any port of import,” the health ministry pointed out.
Giving details of oxygen concentrators received from various countries, the ministry said Mauritius had sent 200 oxygen concentrators, Russia 20, Romania 80, Ireland 700, Thailand 30, China 1,000, Uzbekistan 151, and Taiwan 150. The United Kingdom had sent in four consignments of oxygen concentrators – 95+120+280+174.
Explaining the process of clearing these items on their arrival, the health ministry said the Indian Customs was “sensitive to the need for availability of COVID related imports including Oxygen & Oxygen related equipment”. They were working 24 x 7 to fast track and clear the goods on arrival and lead to expeditious clearance within hours.
“The goods are given high priority for clearance by the Customs Systems for processing over other goods. While the Nodal Officers get alerts on email for monitoring and clearance, monitoring by senior officers for pendency of COVID related imports is also being undertaken,” the ministry pointed out.
The matter regarding a consignment of 3,000 Oxygen Concentrators lying with Customs Authorities also came up in the Delhi High Court recently. The Government Counsel had clarified that at present, no such consignment was pending with the Customs authorities.
The Ministry of Finance had also clarified the matter through an official release on May 3, after social media was flooded with the news that 3,000 Oxygen concentrators were lying with Customs.
The ministry stated, “We have again checked with our field formations and there is no such consignment lying with the Customs. However, since a photograph has also been put on twitter, if anybody has information as to where it is lying, the same may be informed to us and we will take immediate action”.