Where the Chief Ministers of states such as Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Assam and Tamil Nadu were fighting to bring our nation out of the oxygen crisis during the second wave of COVID-19, Chief Minister of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal was busy prioritising politics over the innocent lives of the public.
On June 25th, the Supreme Court’s oxygen audit team revealed that Delhi Government exaggerated the requirement of oxygen in Delhi by four times, which not only created an environment of panic in the Nation’s capital but also deprived supply of oxygen to 12 high case loaded states. Further, in the report by the Supreme Court’s audit team, it was stated that Delhi needed 289 metric tons of oxygen, however, Kejriwal’s government demanded 1140 metric tons. Additionally, Dr Guleria-led audit team also mentioned, “Singhal Hospital, Aruna Asaf Ali Government Hospital, ESIC Model Hospital and Liferays Hospital had claimed extremely high oxygen consumption with very few beds and the claims appeared to be clearly erroneous, leading to extremely skewed information and significantly higher LMO requirements for Delhi. Actual consumptions were estimated by recalculation after replacing the claimed use figures for the four hospitals with expected use figures using the calculation formula.” This inaccurate requirement of oxygen presented by the Delhi Government also led to hoarding and black marketing of vast amounts of oxygen, and ultimately creating a situation of oxygen shortage not just in Delhi, but in 12 other states.
Now that we have established the above-mentioned facts as per the report by the audit committee, it brings us to the question- was there no scarcity of oxygen in Delhi during the peak of the second wave? The answer to this is no; Delhi was suffering from a lack of oxygen. The images of people hastily and anxiously searching for oxygen was not a false picture, but in reality, a summary of how the Delhi Government led by Arvind Kejriwal was responsible for the misery of millions; partly because of his inefficiency and partly because of the business of black marketing and hoarding.
In April, the Central government was coordinating with several states to meet the increased demand for oxygen and engaging in various measures like running oxygen express trains, importing tanks and oxygen concentrators, ramping up oxygen production, curbing the use of industrial oxygen. On the other hand, the Chief Minister of Delhi was incessantly blaming the Centre and raising his hands in helplessness. Additionally, the Delhi Government was not coordinating with the Centre to solve the oxygen crisis. For instance, when the Central government asked for Cryogenic tankers for collecting oxygen, Delhi Government failed to arrange the tankers to facilitate the oxygen supply and came up with a baseless reason saying that they are not an industrial state and hence cannot arrange the tankers. However, this reason stated by the Kejriwal Government just seemed like an excuse to hide his mismanagement as Delhi being a trade capital accommodates many transportation firms that could have easily managed to facilitate tankers. For this blatant irresponsibility by the Chief Minister of Delhi, even Delhi High Court rebuked his government for non-cooperation and failure to arrange cryogenic tankers at the right time.
Just as the Delhi Government failed to arrange for tankers, they were also falling short in arranging the storing facilities for oxygen. In a report included in the oxygen audit interim by PESO, it was stated that the Delhi Government returned oxygen tankers to suppliers asking them to store the oxygen in their plants as they couldn’t store it in Delhi.
Furthermore, PESO also revealed that Delhi didn’t have enough storage facilities to meet the demand for 700 metric tons of oxygen. Therefore, due to the lack of storage facilities, more than half of the oxygen was lying with the suppliers.
When the nation’s capital was burning with the oxygen crisis, black marketing and hoarding of oxygen cylinders was widespread. Even here the Delhi Government not only failed to curb the illegal selling of oxygen, but one of the AAP’s MLA was also allegedly involved in the hoarding of oxygen cylinders. The Delhi High Court issued a notice to AAP’s MLA, Imran Hussain for allegedly hoarding oxygen and distributing it free of cost to COVID-19 patients.
The plea was made by one Vedansh Sharma, who presented a Facebook post created by AAP, where it was mentioned that Imran would provide free oxygen cylinders from his party office, which somehow indicated that where the country is struggling for oxygen, AAP is hoarding them.
Along with this, the High Court also reprimanded Delhi Government for failing to take stringent actions against the black marketing of liquid oxygen and oxygen cylinders. The Court stated, “There’s no account being kept on how they [oxygen refillers] are further supplying oxygen to hospitals or individuals, leading to an artificial black market.”
Talking about setting up of oxygen plants, when the first wave of COVID-19 had hit the country, the Central Government allocated funds from PM cares to build eight PSA medical oxygen plants in Delhi. However, out of eight, only one oxygen plant was set up, and the rest of the funds were spent on appearing on Television every 5 minutes. Moreover, the oxygen crisis in Delhi also exposed Kejriwal’s lies as in an RTI filed by Tejpal Singh in 2019, it was revealed that no new hospitals were commissioned in the year 2015-2019.
After considering these facts it can be said that the oxygen crisis in Delhi was, perhaps, a deliberate attempt made by the Kejriwal government for petty politics. However, even after the audit report by the Supreme Court was made public, the Chief Minister of Delhi was defending his actions by twisting the narrative and giving it an emotional angle. But now that his propaganda is exposed, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that this inhumane behaviour by the Chief Minister of Delhi deserves a criminal investigation for not only playing with the lives of residents of Delhi but also 12 more states.
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