Day after an interim report of a Supreme Court-appointed panel on Delhi’s oxygen needs sparked a controversy, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, who headed the panel reportedly said that it would be incorrect to say that the Delhi government exaggerated its oxygen needs by four times.
According to NDTV, when asked if the Arvind Kejriwal govt exaggerated its needs four times as stated by the SC panel interim report, Guleria said, “I don’t think we could say four times exaggeration.”
Later in the day, PTI quoted the AIIMS director as saying, “It is an interim report. The oxygen needs are dynamic and change from day to day. The matter is subjudice.”
Why is Guleria’s statement important?
The interim report was prepared by a sub-group constituted by the Supreme Court to audit oxygen consumption in hospitals in the National Capital during the second wave.
According to PTI, the interim report said that the Delhi government had made the claims for allocation of 700 MT oxygen on 30 April of medical-grade Oxygen using a wrong formula.
The interim report, which is part of the 163-page report of the National Task Force, said that the Delhi government “exaggerated” the consumption of oxygen and made a claim of 1,140 MT, four times higher than the formula for bed capacity requirement of 289 MT.
Guleria is the head of the five-member panel. Now his remarks on the “interim report” are likely to add fuel to the controversy, which has sparked a war of words between the BJP and AAP.
After the report came to light on Friday, the BJP accused Kejriwal of “heinous crime” and “criminal negligence”.
In reply to the allegation, Kejriwal took to Twitter to say, “My crime ” I fought for the breath of my two crore people. When you were doing an election rally, I was awake all night arranging for oxygen. I fought, pleaded to get oxygen for people.”
“People have lost their loved ones due to lack of oxygen. Don’t call them liars, they are feeling so bad,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.
BJP leaders, including East Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir and former Delhi minister Kapil Mishra have slammed the AAP government over the issue and demanded an apology over what they call is “criminal negligence”. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra termed it a “heinous crime”.
Who else has expressed doubt on the interim report?
Responding to the allegations, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia Friday said that the members of the Supreme Court-appointed Oxygen Audit Committee have neither signed nor approved any such report and accused the BJP of “drafting the misleading and bogus report at its headquarters”.
Two members, BS Bhalla, Delhi government’s principal home secretary, home, and Max Healthcare’s Clinical Director Sandeep Budhiraja, have already questioned the conclusions of the panel report.
Bhalla gave his objections and comments on the 23-page interim report shared with him on 30 May.
The report has an annexure of communication sent by Bhalla on 31 May in which he said a reading of the draft interim report makes it painfully apparent that the sub-group, instead of focussing on the task, delineated from the terms of order of the Supreme Court dated 6 May.
Bhalla objected to the finding of the sub-group that medical oxygen consumption as per actual bed occupancy was 250 tonnes in late April, 470-490 MT in the first week of May and 900 MT as claimed on 10 May.
“This para should be deleted as it is neither correct nor based on verified data. With the number of new positive cases peaking in the first week of May, and hospital bed occupancy continuing to rise even after that, the Oxygen requirement based on occupancy was around 625 MT at the end of April and 700 MT in the first week of May,” he said.
Budhiraja said in his comments that a decision was taken in the first meeting itself to get actual details of oxygen consumption from all the hospitals of NCT Delhi.
“After repeated corrections (as hospital medical Superintendent used a different format), the total calculation of Oxygen consumption (based on actual consumption data of 214 hospitals) came to around 490 MT. This did not take into account, oxygen cylinder refilling and non-COVID requirement of hospitals,” Budhiraja said.
Kejriwal seeks to move on from oxygen controversy
On Saturday, Kejriwal sought to move on from the controversy and called for everyone to work together to ensure there is no shortage of oxygen in the next COVID-19 wave.
“May we work now if your fight over oxygen is finished? Let us together make a system so no one faces a shortage of oxygen in the third wave,” Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi.
“There was an acute shortage of oxygen in the second wave. It should not be so in the third wave. Corona will win if we fight with each other. The nation will win if we fight together,” he added.
With inputs from agencies