The Ministry of Home Affairs lashed out at the Delhi government for mismanagement of available infrastructure and support in the fight against Covid-19, leading to tragic loss of lives. The ministry directed the state government to resolve the logistics issue immediately and set up a control room to address the crisis on an "urgent, effective, innovative and result oriented" way.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla in a letter on April 25 to Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev said that efforts of the administration have not been up to the mark.
Bhalla stated that due to the unprecedented Covid crisis and the alarming rise in the number of cases throughout the country, the Central Government has started procurement and augmentation of medical oxygen on a war footing from all available sources.
Over and above other immediate steps for augmenting the supply of oxygen, the Centre has prohibited all major industries from using oxygen for industrial purposes. They have been directed to supply this oxygen only for medical use.
The Government has launched all out efforts to augment the supply of oxygen both from within the country and also from abroad by importing as much as possible on a war footing.
The Government has not only arranged some tankers both from within the country and abroad but has also airlifted empty tankers to distant supply sites like Durgapur and Jamshedpur to ensure speedy supply across the nation. Special trains have been deployed for the speedy supply of oxygen. "Number of tankers are mounted on these trains and it gets an uninterrupted passage," Bhalla said.
The Centre has also issued directions to all the state governments to ensure uninterrupted movement of oxygen tankers by passing orders under the Disaster Management Act.
It is also facilitating the states/UTs in the production, movement and supply of medical oxygen and essential medicines.
"The Government of India has specially created an inter-ministerial "Virtual Central Control Room" at national level having a team of dedicated senior officers of Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary rank from Health, DPIIT, MHA, MoRTH, Railways, Steel Ministries etc. and senior officers of States/UTs which monitors and finds solutions to any problems in this regard 24x7 on real time basis," the officer said.
All state Governments/UTs have been making continuous efforts for the last few days to arrange tankers for medical oxygen and a specially designated virtual group has been formed by MoRTH which facilitates States/UTs in this regard.
"The States/UTs have also converted some nitrogen/argon tankers into oxygen tankers. Even the States having no industrial development or insignificant industries within their territories are finding innovative solutions and arranging the tankers using all possible resources at their command," he said.
However, the Delhi Government has hardly been able to arrange any tankers so far.
"You are requested to urgently take immediate action in this regard as is being done by Chief Secretaries and other officials of other States/UTs," Bhalla said.
Delhi had been allocated 480 MT on 21.04.2021 after consultation with officers of the Delhi Government.
However, it has been brought to my notice that Delhi has received less supply than its actual allocation made by the Government of India largely due to logistical issues which are not at all addressed by the State Government, said Bhalla.
Other States/UTs have been making earnest and professional efforts to solve all logistical issues and are being actively aided by Govt of India officials and the virtual groups referred to above, he said.
"However, efforts of Delhi Government have not been up to the mark," the officer pointed out.
The Delhi Government had directed INOX (one of the main supplier of oxygen) to supply 98 MT to 17 hospitals situated within Delhi, while INOX was supplying 105 MT to 45 hospitals situated within Delhi for a long time.
Furthermore, alternative arrangements for the left out 28 hospitals were not properly tied up by the Delhi Government.
As a result, some of these hospitals have been complaining about severe shortage of medical oxygen and one hospital mentioned that some persons died because of it.
"This could had been avoided had proper, effective, and meaningful consultations with various stakeholders, specially the suppliers and recipient hospitals, had been done well in time by Delhi Government," Bhalla said.
"You must also be aware that most of the hospitals in Delhi are converted into Covid hospitals in view of the sudden and alarming rise in Covid cases. Such hospitals, by the very nature of their earlier functioning, did not have adequate storage capacity to store the oxygen supplied as per their present requirements since in their earlier functioning most of them did not need more quantity of oxygen," he pointed out.
For the same reason their oxygen dispensing infrastructure also may not have been up to the mark, especially for the augmented oxygen supply required for Covid patients.
"A virtual meeting with all hospitals in Delhi, taking stock of their respective capacities and infrastructure, guiding them to suitably augment their storage/pressure facilities to the required level with the help of experts of the field would have avoided tragic incidents," Bhalla said.
Bhalla requested the Delhi Chief Secretary to take urgent, effective, innovative and result oriented measures like the chief secretaries of other States/UTs have taken.