A Covid-19 coronavirus positive patient seen inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a covid care centre in New Delhi on April 28, 2021.(AFP)
A Covid-19 coronavirus positive patient seen inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a covid care centre in New Delhi on April 28, 2021.(AFP)

Centre pulled up for oxygen supply deficit

The bench observed that the principal reason behind he lag in supply appeared to be the distance between Delhi and the sources of supply in West Bengal and Odisha.
By Richa Banka, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON APR 29, 2021 04:52 AM IST

Noting that Delhi has not received its allocated quota of 490 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen even for a single day, the Delhi high court on Wednesday slammed the Centre for not supplying the promised quota, and asked it to work out an allocation plan.

A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli noted that Delhi has not received the allocated amount of 490 MT oxygen even on a single day --- five days since the court passed an order. The bench observed that the principal reason behind he lag in supply appeared to be the distance between Delhi and the sources of supply in West Bengal and Odisha.

“What is the point of allocating 490 MT (oxygen), when they (Delhi) have not got it? Now there are also tankers. We do not have a bureaucratic answer….It is not an efficient way of working out. The proof of the pudding lies in the eating. Things have not improved despite the lapse of five days. We are still hovering around 400 or even less and that amount of 490 MT has still not achieved…This has to be done on an SOS basis. It pains my heart. It should not take five days. Your allocation is bad..We have again and again asked you to work out your allocation plan,” the bench remarked.

The court told the Centre that it might look at sources of supply closer to the Capital. “It does not make sense to get something from 1,600km. Maybe you could increase the supply from UP and it could be made as it reduces travel time... This is simple common sense,” the court said, directing the newly appointed amicus curiae advocate Rajshekhar Rao to look into the state wise allocation plan of the Centre and give suggestions to the Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta on this.

During the hearing, senior advocate Rahul Mehra who was representing the Delhi government, said one of the major reasons for the shortage of oxygen in Delhi hospitals is the delay supplies from West Bengal and Odisha. He told the court that as on April 27 midnight, the city received a supply of 402MT, whereas there demand was 700 MT.

He urged the court that allocation to Delhi may be made from some nearby states. He also cited an instance where his industrialist friends in Rajasthan and Ludhiana were ready to refill 200 oxygen cylinders but the state administration was not allowing this.

Reacting sharply to this, justice Palli told the Centre, “People will keep dying and you will not do anything even if you might show on paper. If you have an extra cylinder in some other state, then make it available. No other state is in such a condition now as Delhi is.”

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, appearing for the Centre, told the court that everything possible is being done from their side. He said that all the factors have been taken into account while deciding the allocation plan.

During the proceedings, the bench also appealed to the people to not hoard oxygen cylinders and medicines required Covid-19 patients, to avoid creating “artificial scarcity” remarking that “we get what we deserve”.

“The nation is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is we the people who need to stand up and showcase our qualities and virtues which all of us….We therefore appeal to the good sense of people to not resort to black marketing or hoarding of either oxygen cylinders or medicines and to make them available to the needy people.

“Hoarding of medicines or oxygen cylinders leads to artificial scarcity to an extent which may not be there,” it noted in the order.

The court was hearing a plea by lawyer-petitioner Rakesh Malhotra, who, along with several hospitals, sought directions to the Centre and the Delhi government for better facilities and continuous supply of oxygen in the hospitals and nursing homes of the city.

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