On Friday, Hindustan Syringes and Medical Devices Ltd (HMD) had been asked by the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Adjoining Areas to shut down its plants ‘voluntarily’ to help the national capital tackle the problem of pollution. However, now, the commission has given the manufacturer the permission to restart production. This came after HMD, the largest producer of syringes and needles in the country, sought the withdrawal of the order, writing to the Prime Minister’s Office, the CAQM, NCR & AA, as well as other administrative offices. The manufacturer said that it was producing critical medical devices – syringes – for the COVID-19 vaccination drive and asked the commission to take the company’s case as an exception.
Notably, HMD supplies more than 66% of the syringes used across the country, and of those, 40% are currently being used for the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Financial Express Online has learnt.
The CAQM, in its previous order, said that the industries located in industrial areas and clusters having infrastructure to provide PNG had been directed on November 16 to switch to PNG or cleaner fuels on an immediate basis. It was in a follow-up of that direction that it decided that units that had still not switched to PNG or other cleaner forms of fuel had to shut down their operations with immediate effect last week. Last week’s order had come keeping in mind the deteriorating air quality in the northern states of Haryana, Rajasthan, UP and Delhi.
Notably, HMD in its letter requesting exemption stated that it had been running its operations with PNG of 4.3 mega watt since 2011. But HMD Managing Director Rajiv Nath added in the letter, “PNG genset is good for most of our larger plant needs but not for our smaller plants as yet where there are also space and technological constraints. PNG is not only environment-friendly, but also has cost advantages at Rs 13.90 per unit over diesel-generated power at Rs 24 per unit. While no one will want to run on expensive diesel genset (even if they meet the emission norms with the appropriate chimney heights) that cost Rs 24 per unit, compared to government-supplied power at Rs 9, we hope we are allowed to do that in very rare circumstances going forward as is permitted for hospitals to ensure optimal plant operational efficiencies, since cost of change-overs, machine restarts in a highly automated process leads to not only higher wastages, rejections and downtimes, but also a higher risk of patient safety from certain manufacturing defects.”
In its revised order, CAQM has said that from December 13, i.e. Monday, industries not running on PNG despite being located in clusters where PNG infrastructure is available would be able to resume operations for eight hours a day, five hours a week.
The CAQM has also written to Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) that HMD units would be able to resume their operations provided they follow the conditions mentioned in the revised order. It also noted that the order of closure of the units was sent after they were inspected on December 7 this year, in which it was noted that HMD had operated three diesel generator sets after October 28. The three diesel gensets were used on 32 occasions for testing and on 30 occasions to supply power during power cuts that ranged from 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.
While allowing the resumption of production, the CAQM noted that the decision was taken considering the fact that HMD had closed its plants to comply with the previous order, that it was producing crucial medical equipment for COVID-19 relief and that its diesel gensets were not operating regularly. However, it also told the HSPCB to ensure that the plant began operations only after giving the required undertaking. The pollution board of Haryana has also been directed to realise suitable Environmental Compensation charges from HMD within a period of seven days for using diesel gensets in violation of the guidelines and directions.
Nath said that the company resumed operations from Monday after it received the formal letter in this regard.