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Here’s why Assam’s deal with Bhutan to import 40 metric tonnes oxygen delayed?

THIMPU: Neighbouring country Bhutan will help India with by supplying 40 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to tide over the oxygen crisis in India in view of surge in COVID-19 cases, the embassy of India to Bhutan stated in a statement.

The oxygen to be supplied from a newly built plant at the Motanga Indsutrial Estate in Samdrup Jongkhar district by M/s SD Cryogenics Gases Pvt Ltd, a company of Bhutan.

Cryogenic tankers will be used to import 40 mt liquid oxygen per day produced by the plant. The plant has Bhutan’s domestic investment of 51 per cent which is held by M/s SD Cryogenics and FDI component of 49 per cent held by Assam-based Meghalaya Oxygen Pvt Ltd.

According to an InsideNE source, Bhutan does not have sufficient number of skilled labourers to help in setting up the plant. But, labourers from India could not enter Bhutan due to surge of COVID-19 cases in India as the neighbouring country was not somehow convinved to do so fearing a COVID-19 spike in the country as well.

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With Union external affair minister S Jaishankar’s stepping in after Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s letter to him, the Bhutan government agreed to hold a discussion with Indian government to process the deal further and put it into execution.

Assam minister of state for health and family welfare Pijush Hazarika recently visited the under-construction oxygen plant at Samdrup Jongkhar, along the Indo-Bhutan border accompanied by Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary, to take stock of the construction work.

Now, the Bhutan government has agreed upon to let Indian labourers to enter, but they will be kept in a contained zone just to limit the risk of COVID-19, the sources told InsideNE.

The oxygen plant would take approximately 45 days to get completed. As confirmed by Sarma on April 25, Assam already has a suplus of 40 mt of oxygen. So there would be no scarcity of medical oxygen in the state at least for next two weeks.

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