Manish Sisodia writes to Rajnath Singh seeking army’s help to set up more beds, transport oxygen
Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia has written to Union defence minister Rajnath Singh urging him to mobilise the army to set up and run Covid-19 facilities, to augment bed strength by another 11,000, and ensure adequate supply and transportation of medical oxygen and 40,000 additional oxygen cylinders, as the Capital grapples with the tsunami of fresh infections and daily deaths, and people frantically search for oxygen and other medical essentials.
Since Delhi is recording an average of 25,000 new cases every day, and about 10% of these require some form of hospitalisation, the additional health infrastructure will soon be at its capacity, Sisodia wrote in the letter dated May 2.
“The army has always stood at the forefront during times of crisis, helped and protected the citizens of this great nation. I shall be grateful if your ministry could lend the services of our armed forces to set up, operationalise and run some Covid health facilities with about 10,000 oxygenated non-ICU beds and 1,000 ICU (beds). Since health infrastructure machinery is overwhelmed by the management of the existing hospitals and the upcoming Covid hospitals, it will be a timely help to the people of Delhi if the ministry of defence, with the considerable resources at its command, is tasked with the responsibility to provide and man the additional Covid health facilities,” Sisodia wrote.
He also requested the defence ministry to arrange for the supply of medical oxygen for the Covid health facilities that will be set up.
The letter came after the Delhi high court, on Saturday, directed the Delhi government to seek the help of the armed forces in getting oxygen and setting up more Covid facilities. On Saturday, the court also asked the Delhi government why nothing was done despite the court asking it two to three days ago to that to seek the help of the armed forces.
While the defence ministry is yet to respond to the letter, the Centre informed the high court on Monday that defence minister Rajnath Singh is looking into the request of the Delhi government asking for the army’s help to set up hospitals with oxygenated and ICU beds.
A bench of justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli was informed by additional solicitor general (ASG) Chetan Sharma that an officer was in contact with the defence minister, and they will let the court and amicus curiae know more details once they receive information.
“The matter is now being looked into by the defence minister himself,” Sharma said.
The court asked the Centre for a report on the matter, while stating that there was a “good case” to seek the army’s help.
“…there is a good case made out for the army. It is a national calamity, no doubt about it,” the bench said.
Delhi has 16,272 non-ICU oxygen beds and 4,866 ICU beds at the moment, and the Delhi government has said it will create an additional 15,000 oxygenated non-ICU beds and 1,200 ICU beds in the next 10 days. But it is yet unclear how it will get the oxygen to supply for these beds given that the Capital has been grappling with a shortage.
Sisodia also urged the ministry to provide cryogenic tankers for the transport of liquid medical oxygen. “Additional allocation (of medical oxygen by the the Centre) has been made from plants located more than 1,500km from Delhi -- i.e. Durgapur, Rourkela and Kalinga Nagar. The government of Delhi, with necessary help from the government of India and other state governments, is augmenting the transport infrastructure by sourcing cryogenic tankers even from abroad. It would be an extraordinary help from the armed forces if the ministry can provide cryogenic tankers for transport of liquid medical oxygen,” he wrote in the letter.
Delhi also needs the army’s help in procuring about 40,000 D-Type medical oxygen cylinders, the deputy CM said.
“The operational details can be mutually worked out after receipt of in-principle approval from the defence ministry,” Sisodia wrote.
The Covid-19 crisis in Delhi worsened in April, and was compounded by the scarcity of oxygen and beds.
Taking note of the situation, the Supreme Court on Sunday issued an order asking the Centre to address Delhi’s oxygen issue by Monday midnight. It also asked the Centre to create a buffer stock of oxygen that can be used by all states.