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Only Oxygen Cylinder vendor in Malegaon threatens to stop supply

It has become extremely difficult for us to continue work under such a situation, Bharat Mehta of Indore Gas Agency said

Friday May 15, 2020 11:17 PM, ummid.com Staff Reporter

Malegaon News

[Bharat Mehta of Indore Gas Agency Malegaon in his office. (Photo: Zohair M Safwan/ummid.com)]

Malegaon: Fed up by police high-handedness and local civic body’s apathy, the only oxygen cylinder vendor in Malegaon has threatened to stop supply.

Malegaon is the worst Covid hit city in Maharashtra after Mumbai and Pune. The city has so far reported more than 650 positive cases, including over 30 deaths. Any disruptions in the supply of oxygen cylinders hence could worsen the already grave situation.

“My staff members out to purchase food essentials were beaten by the police for the 3rd time on Wednesday. They were holding the passes issued by the authorities. Yet they were beaten and harassed”, Bharat Mehta, the owner of Indore Gas Agency, told ummid.com.

Recalling the incident, Manish Deore said he along with one of his fellow staffer was stopped by the police posted at Shivaji Putla near Mosum Pul. He said they showed their passes to the police and explained to them the reason why they were out.

“But, they were not convinced and started beating us”, he said.

“After mercilessly beating us they let us go. As we drove past them, they called us once again, only for another round of brutal beating”, he said.

Indore Gas Agency is the only dealer supplying oxygen gas cylinders to government and private hospitals in Malegaon. The agency on the request of local leaders started delivering oxygen cylinders for patients who were at home and could not visit hospitals because of the lockdown.

“However, it has become extremely difficult for us to continue work under such a situation”, he said.

No proper food, accommodation

Bharat Mehta shuttles between Nashik and Malegaon every day while his staff members reside in different societies in the Camp area of Malegaon. Since the Coronavirus outbreak in Malegaon on April 8, Bharat and his entire staff of 9 are residing in Indore Gas Agency premises.

“In fact my mother had heart attack a fortnight ago. But, I am avoiding to visit her lest it might create health risk for her”, he said.

Bharat Mehta

The situation for his staff is more troublesome. They could not go home because they are facing opposition from their neighbours.

“We are continuously in touch with the people who are close relatives of Corona positive patients and Covid suspects. This is why our neighbours don’t want us fearing we could spread the deadly virus in the society”, Vilas Vaidya, another staffer, said.

No support from Civic body

Bharat Mehta – an authorised and licensed holder vendor to supply gases to hospitals and industries, said he had requested the Malegaon Municipal Corporation (MMC) to arrange alternate accommodation and food for him and his staff. But, the civic body is yet to take a decision on his request.

“My office space is not big enough to accommodate 9-10 people. There is no kitchen and proper bathroom. Yet we are staying here since last more than one month”, Bharat said.


[Manish Deore and Baleshwar Gawli who are working at Indore Gas Agency under Bharat Mehta. (Photo: Zohair M Safwan/ummid.com)]

“Without proper food and accommodation we are working for 14 to 16 hours daily just to make sure that the supply of oxygen cylinders is not disrupted”, he said.

“What we are getting in return? Beating and abuses?” the only supplier of gas cylinders in the city moaned adding that the local administration is duty bound to provide them food, medicines and supplements so as to keep them fit and healthy.

More problems

Police highhandedness and civic body’s lacklustre attitude are not the only things that worry Bharat Mehta and his staff. Almost on daily basis he has to face the wrath of restless relatives who come to take delivery of the oxygen cylinders.

On the other hand, relatives accuse Bharat of charging hefty deposits and extra money for the oxygen cylinders. They also accuse the gas dealer of "deliberately" denying them the cylinders.

“The cost of a cylinder is 10 to 11,000 rupees. Accordingly, we take Rs.7000 deposit for a cylinder. This is not new. We are taking this deposit amount since 2016”, Bharat said showing his office records.

“This is necessary so that empty cylinders are returned to us in time”, Bharat added.

Bharat also said he has a total of 540 cylinders. "Out of them, 400 are on routine service in local hospitals. And, due to the sudden demand, we have also exhausted the remaining stock. There is no question of denying any body", he said.

Officials, leaders reach out to Bharat

None from the Malegaon Municipal Corporation was available for a response. But top police officials have promised Bharat Mehta of better coordination and also assured him that whatever happened in the past will not be repeated.

Former MLA and Malegaon Congress President Asif Shaikh had also called on Bharat Mehta requesting him to maintain regular supply of oxygen gas cylinders for the patients.

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