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‘Centre’s Apathy’: Raghav Chadha on Why Delhi Faces Oxygen Crisis

AAP MLA Raghav Chadha breaks down the several bottlenecks on why Delhi is still facing an oxygen shortage.

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Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

Despite orders from the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court, why is Delhi still facing oxygen crisis? AAP MLA Raghav Chadha, who issues an oxygen bulletin every afternoon, breaks down the bottlenecks, in an interview with The Quint.

He also talks about what the Delhi government can do or could have done better to handle the oxygen crisis.

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It has been over three weeks since hospitals and citizens have been issuing SOS messages, why is Delhi still facing a shortage of oxygen? Where is the bottleneck?

Delhi needs 976 MT of oxygen every day, calculated based on the formula given to each state by the Central government. We have been putting across this demand to the Centre continuously. At least 18 states had put forward their oxygen requirement demands before the Centre. Out of those 18 states, 17 states got almost as much oxygen as they had demanded. The only state whose demands were not met was Delhi’s. And that is very unfortunate. These are times of pandemic, I don’t wish to play politics but what it certainly appears is that this unfair treatment towards Delhi is probably due to Centre’s apathy towards the NCT.

The second problem is logistics. Delhi, not being an industrial state, does not have its own steel plant or cryogenic tankers. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Centre to provide both oxygen and tankers to ply that oxygen. Without tankers, the allotted oxygen has no meaning.

From the initial days of the crisis till very recently, we are seeing SOS tweets and complaints from Delhi government officials about oxygen tankers being stopped at the borders of various states, despite MHA’s orders. Health Ministry says a central team is working in tandem with a control team of Delhi government. Then why is there still a communication gap?

We are constantly urging everyone to not differentiate among Indians on the basis of state borders. We had seen some states stopping supply tankers enroute to Delhi at their borders to cater to the demands of their own people first. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had requested PM Narendra Modi during the meeting to issue a strict warning to all Chief Ministers to not stop tankers meant for bringing oxygen towards Delhi. Had the PM made a call to these CMs, they would never have dared to stop Delhi’s supply tankers again.

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You have been replying to several SOS messages from hospitals asking for oxygen on Twitter. But, why does it have to come to a point where a hospital has to tweet out an SOS for a government official to take note? Is there a proper communication channel for the hospitals to reach out and ask for oxygen?

We have a helpline, a war room which is being handled by several efficient and experienced IAS officers. In that war room, we receive and address SOS calls from hospitals. We also track social media for urgent needs in different hospitals. We cater to each and every SOS call. In the oxygen bulletin that I issue every day, I also put forward the number of SOS calls we have received and addressed. You will notice as oxygen supply is increased, the number of SOS calls received will reduce.

In hindsight, do you think the Delhi government could have done anything better to have handled the oxygen crisis? What stopped the Delhi government from setting up its own oxygen plants in the last one year?

Hindsight is always 20-20, therefore this question is something that every government must introspect about. As far as oxygen plants are concerned, the ones that were promised to Delhi out of the centrally-promised 162 plants, they could not be set up because the vendor who was coordinating with a Central team ran away with the money. However, every government is wiser now. At least my government has started importing PSA oxygen plants and setting them up. We will ensure that the oxygen crisis becomes a thing of the past.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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