Responding to the Centre's Supreme Court-appointed oxygen audit panel's allegation that the Delhi administration had exaggerated its need for the life-saving gas, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday, 25 June, said that his crime was fighting for the breath of Delhi's populace.
"My crime – I fought for the breath of my 2 crore people. When you were organising election rallies, I was awake all night arranging oxygen. I fought, pleaded to get people oxygen. People have lost their loved ones due to the lack of oxygen. Don't call them liars," the CM wrote on Twitter.
An interim report of the team, submitted by the Centre in court, stated that the Delhi government had exaggerated the need for oxygen in the city by more than four times the actual amount required during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, calling it “malicious and false” propaganda, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia claimed that there is no such report. The report of the committee is yet to be filed in court.
Meanwhile, the interim report of a sub-group that was part of the Centre's affidavit to the Supreme Court stated, “The Delhi government's claim of 1,140 metric tonnes (MT) was four times the calculated consumption as per the formula based on bed capacity, which was 289 MT only,” reported NDTV.
The Supreme Court on 8 May had formed a 12-member task force to improve the oxygen distribution system in the country. A separate sub-group was formed for Delhi, which included AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, Delhi government’s Principal (Home) Secretary Bhupinder S Bhalla, Controller of Explosives SK Singh, and Max Hospital’s Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, among others.
A study conducted by the Petroleum and Oxygen Safety Organization (PESO) has told the sub-group committee that Delhi had surplus oxygen that other states could have gotten. PESO further stated that the continuous excess supply to Delhi could have led to a national crisis.
The audit team's report suggests that the increased oxygen demand made by Delhi during the period of the outbreak's peak from 25 April to 10 May could have affected the supply to 12 other high caseload states, as per a Times of India report.
The observations on Delhi's “inflated” claims on oxygen needs are from the PESO study that is a part of the interim findings.
BJP’s Senior Leaders Are Lying: Sisodia
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that “politics over oxygen” was done by the Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal, and took to Twitter to claim that the alleged oxygen report was sent to the Delhi administration three days back.
To this, Sisodia responded that the audit committee has not approved or signed any report yet, and the BJP is abusing Kejriwal over a report made in the BJP headquarters.
Questioning the BJP, Sisodia asked in a video released on Twitter, “Were those people begging and crying for oxygen lying? Were the hospitals making SOS calls lying?”
Sisodia added, "The unsubstantiated claims by the BJP and the media are malicious and false. It's an absolute lie. Shame on the BJP.” He added that the BJP is not just abusing Kejriwal but also the people who lost their relatives due to the Centre’s mismanagement of oxygen in Delhi hospitals.
On the other hand, Patra accused the Delhi Government of hiding its failures by blaming others. "What the Delhi Chief Minister did hurt 12 other states. Shocking that they can do politics over oxygen," he said.
Delhi's Oxygen Woes
For almost three weeks during the second wave of COVID-19, Delhi faced severe oxygen shortages, leading to an acute scarcity in the availability of oxygenated beds in the city's hospitals.
Several hospitals in the national capital sent out SOS calls, pleading for oxygen supply as they struggled to cope with COVID patients requiring the life-saving gas.
Following several such pleas and a petition submitted by Max Healthcare, the Delhi High Court had directed the central government to ensure the supply of medical oxygen by “whatever means required".
Oxygen Audit Findings
"There was a gross discrepancy (about four times). The actual oxygen consumption claimed by the Delhi government (1,140 MT) was about four times higher than the calculated consumption as per the formula based on bed capacity (289 MT)," the audit report said.
The audit team has collected data from as many as 183 hospitals in Delhi and examined the figures based on three parameters – the requirement of oxygen as per Delhi government’s formula, the requirement of oxygen as per the Centre’s calculations, and the actual consumption of oxygen.
The report indicated that according to the data from these hospitals, while the Delhi government had indicated the consumption of 1,140 MT of Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) in the 183 hospitals, the actual consumption of LMO was only 209 MT.
Meanwhile, if the Delhi government formula were to be followed, the requirement would have been 391 MT of oxygen, and the Centre's formula would have indicated a requirement of 289 MT of LMO.
The report further said that while the Delhi government had asserted that its formula was based on ICMR guidelines, no such recommendations were presented to the audit team by the state government.
The Delhi government’s specifications assume that all of the non-ICU beds require oxygen. The formula recommended by the Union government, on the other hand, assumes that only half of the non-ICU patients admitted require oxygen.
According to The Times of India report, the audit sub-group indicated that the formula that assumes oxygen requirement for all non-ICU beds is flawed, since not all of the patients admitted require oxygen but are suffering from co-morbidities and other difficulties. Such patients, who are severely affected and cannot be discharged, continue to occupy oxygenated non-ICU beds when no other beds are available in the hospital.
The team of experts further said that four hospitals in the national capital – Singhal Hospital, Liferays Hospital, Aruna Asaf Ali Government Hospital, and ESIC Model Hospital – had "claimed that extremely high oxygen consumption with very few beds and the claims appeared to be clearly erroneous, leading to extremely skewed information."
The matter is to be heard in the Supreme Court on 30 June.
(With inputs from The Times of India)