The Arvind Kejriwal government is responsible for Delhi’s current oxygen crisis in more ways than one, government sources have indicated. Pointing to the proposed oxygen plants in four hospitals that would be supported by the PM-Cares fund, sources said the Delhi government had not done its homework on these. Sources in the Railway Ministry also said that even now, the Delhi government has not provided cryogenic tankers for the ‘Oxygen Express’.
The Delhi government brushed it off as “outrightly false statements” given by the centre to “hide its abject failure in setting up of PSA oxygen plants in Delhi”.
Four plants, one each at Deen Dayal Upadhya Hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital, Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital Rohini, and Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital are expected to be completed by the end of April.
Plans for the plants were drawn last year and tenders given out in October. But sources said the site readiness for these hospitals was delayed by the Delhi government despite weekly reviews November last year.
For the Ambedkar Nagar Hospital, Dakshinpuri, the site was made ready by the state government as late as April 19. Site readiness certificate of another hospital – Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra Hospital, located in Narela – has not yet been submitted by the Delhi government, the centre has said.
The plants for five hospitals, Delhi said, were delivered in early March 2021 and only one was installed by the vendor, who was unresponsive.
“As for the remaining 2 hospital locations, the plants have not even been received on site. We are shocked to learn that central government is now making the excuse of site certificate not being available from the Delhi government as a reason for delay in plants. This has never been brought to Delhi government’s notice and is an outright lie,” the Delhi government said in a statement.
Eight pressure swing absorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants are being installed in Delhi with the support of PM-Cares fund. These would enhance capacity of medical oxygen by 14.4 tonnes. The national capital has no oxygen plants – a lacuna that has come into focus as the ferocious second surge of Covid is ripping through the city.
With the Delhi government flagging the shortage since Monday, accusing BJP-ruled neighbouring states of blocking medical oxygen, the matter ended up in court. The centre has accused Delhi government of mismanaging oxygen distribution and sensationalising the issue.
During Saturday’s hearing, when the Arvind Kejriwal government said it received only 297 of the 480 tonnes of oxygen in its quota and that the centre was not sticking to court’s guidelines, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the centre, said, “Let’s try and not be a cry baby”.
Over the last week, Covid patients have died in at least one Delhi hospital due to oxygen shortage. The court has promised action against anyone blocking oxygen supply. The shortage of vaccine flagged by various opposition-ruled states had irked the centre early this month.
Union Health minster Harsh Vardhan had said, “The inability of Maharashtra government to act responsibly is beyond comprehension… The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has singularly bogged down the entire country’s efforts to fight the virus”. The minster had also accused the state of misleading people to deflect attention from what he called its poor performance in controlling the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally made it clear that fighting the pandemic cannot be a political issue. In his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat, PM Modi today said the centre is dedicated to taking forward the efforts of the state governments in controlling Covid. “To tackle this wave of Covid, I have held meetings with experts from many fields like pharma industry, oxygen production etc,” he said.