Delhi Government and Centre Tussle Over Oxygen

Representative Image.

The second wave of novel coronavirus witnessed a grim situation among people over the lack of oxygen supply, especially in Delhi-NCR. Various hospitals pleaded with the governments to send oxygen as soon as possible, while many lost their lives due to its unavailability.

Headed by the AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, the Supreme Court-appointed audit team on Friday said a ‘gross discrepancy’ in recording oxygen consumption as the Kejriwal-led Delhi government inflated the demand by four times of its actual consumption between April 29 and May 10.

The sub-group, along with Dr Guleria, comprises Max Healthcare Director Sandeep Buddhiraja, Delhi Government Principal Home Secretary Bhupinder Bhalla, Union Jal Shakti Ministry Joint Secretary Subodh Yadav and Sanjay Kumar Singh of the Petroleum and Oxygen Safety Organization (PESO), which is a central government unit.

The report also covered the Delhi government’s argument that the oxygen supply from adjoining states was “erratic and unreliable” at the time. The union health ministry submitted the report with an affidavit in the Supreme Court.

It said, “There was gross discrepancy [about four times] in that the actual oxygen consumption claimed [1140 MT] was about four times higher than the calculated consumption based on the formula for bed capacity (289 MT).” It added four hospitals, namely ESIC Model Hospital, Singhal Hospital, Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital and Liferay Hospital, exaggerated oxygen consumption with a few beds.

The Delhi government slammed the centre and said that the centre assumes only 50 per cent of non-ICU beds intake the supply of oxygen, which is “not correct”. It raised the flaws in the data stating the calculations were following ICMR recommendations and its estimations were “based on active cases…around 1 lakh.”

“Where those people begging and crying for oxygen lying? Were the hospitals making SOS calls lying,” asked Deputy CM of Delhi Manish Sisodia. He added, “We spoke to the members of the audit committee. They say there’s no such report that has been signed or approved by them. This is a mischievous act perpetrated by the BJP. It’s an absolute lie. Shame on the BJP.”

The apex court had ordered that the daily oxygen allocation for the national capital should be 700 MT. The Delhi High Court had filed contempt proceedings against the officers of the Central Government for not providing 700 MT oxygen following the deaths of patients in some Delhi hospitals, primarily due to lack of oxygen supply. However, the apex court stayed contempt notice, saying that the oxygen supply for Delhi must go through at 700MT.

The panel in the interim report mentioned that it seemed the Delhi government used the wrong formula and made exaggerated claims on April 30 as some hospitals could not distinguish between Kilolitre and Metric Tonne, but this was not assessed when 700 MT demand was estimated.

It is unbelievable to see that CM Arvind Kejriwal and the Delhi government politicised oxygen supply when Covid cases were on the rise. This is such petty politics. The oxygen audit committee’s data report seems shocking, said BJP’s Spokesperson Sambit Patra who joined the war of words.

In the afternoon, CM Kejriwal broke his silence on Twitter, asserting that many were holding rallies at that time, but they stayed awake the whole night to ensure the oxygen supply. He tweeted, “My crime – that I fought for the 2 crore people of Delhi. When you were busy holding election rallies, I stayed up all night trying to arrange for oxygen. I fought and pleaded to make oxygen available.”