Tug-of-war for oxygen keeps Delhi on brink

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, spoke on the issue of oxygen crisis, asking states to come down heavily on hoarding and fix responsibility with local administration in cases of obstruction.
Throughout Thursday, however, hospitals continued to issue SOS messages saying they were short on supply, with some blaming states for supplies being halted there.
Throughout Thursday, however, hospitals continued to issue SOS messages saying they were short on supply, with some blaming states for supplies being halted there.
Updated on Apr 23, 2021 06:41 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Several hospitals in the national capital issued new distress messages about their dwindling oxygen supply as the crisis continued on Thursday, prompting the Delhi government to hit out at what it described as “jungle raj” by neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

The Union government, too, made new interventions, invoking the Disaster Management Act to remind all states that anyone restricting supplies will face punitive action under the law, while the Delhi Disaster Management Authority appointed two senior bureaucrats as nodal officers to ensure smooth movement of tankers and directed the Delhi Police to provide security logistics from manufacturers’ sites to various health facilities.

Throughout Thursday, however, hospitals continued to issue SOS messages saying they were short on supply, with some blaming states for supplies being halted there. “This jungle raj has been going on for three days,” said Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, referring to the alleged blockades by the police forces of the two neighbouring states.

“Some hospitals in Delhi have run out of oxygen completely. They don’t have any option available. I have been receiving calls, messages, e-mails. We have been making internal, makeshift arrangements, but this cannot continue for long,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, spoke on the issue of oxygen crisis, asking states to come down heavily on hoarding and fix responsibility with local administration in cases of obstruction. He told officials to ensure a “smooth, unhindered” supply of oxygen to various states at a review meeting on Thursday.

The problem came into focus early on Tuesday when several hospitals in the Capital said they were on the verge of supplies running out, which would end oxygen support to critically ill patients. The problem recurred on Wednesday and Thursday, with close to 1,000 patients being in danger on both days.

On Thursday, multiple hospitals -- including Sir Ganga Ram, Saroj, Holy Family, Aakash, and Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty — said they had either run out of their liquid medical oxygen and had switched to back-up cylinders, or were soon in danger of running out. Some even discharged patients and asked them to go to other facilities.

“Our officials and even the Central government officials have tried to talk to officials in these states, but the situation on the ground has not changed. Our tankers are still waiting outside the plants. In the plants located in Haryana, only tankers from that state are being allowed to go in for refilling,” said Sisodia, who is also the nodal minister for Covid-19 in Delhi.

Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal later raised the issue with his Haryana counterpart.

The Union government increased Delhi’s quota of daily oxygen supply from 378MT to 480MT on Wednesday, but officials said even this may not be adequate and the additional capacity was likely to take time to arrive.

“The Centre decides the companies from which we get oxygen. The revised quota that the Centre has allotted to us, a substantial part of it is to come from Odisha. But it will take several days to bring oxygen from Odisha to Delhi by road. We are exploring if bringing oxygen from there by air is possible. We are trying for that,” Kejriwal said.

A government spokesperson said supplies may reach the city too late. “What remains a matter of grave concern is that of the 480 metric tonnes, 100 MT oxygen from Odisha (70 MT) and West Bengal (30 MT) will take almost 72 hours to reach Delhi. Our citizens, our hospitals, our city are running out of time. Meanwhile, the 140-metric tonne which Haryana has to supply is yet to leave for Delhi,” said the spokesperson.

On Friday, PM Modi is also scheduled to meet chief ministers of regions with a high Covid-19 burden.

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