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Saturday, May 15, 2021

HC heat on, prods Delhi government: ‘Can’t take one-sided view, be proactive’

The division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli observed that IIT-Delhi has predicted that the ongoing wave of Covid-19 was going to hit its peak by May 15.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: April 25, 2021 4:11:54 am
The court also directed all suppliers of oxygen to provide complete details to the Delhi government. (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

Puling up the Delhi government for not making efforts to procure tankers to be able to transport its allocated 100 MTs (metric tonnes) of oxygen from West Bengal and Odisha, the Delhi High Court Saturday directed it to coordinate with the Centre if cryogenic tanks are in short supply, but “not leave it entirely to the Central government”.

Earlier this week, Delhi’s medical oxygen supply was increased from 378 MTs to 480 MTs but there hasn’t been a day it has received the complete allocated supply.

“GNCTD should make all out efforts for procurement of Cryogenic Tankers from whatever source they can be made available, and look for all possible avenues. The sub-Group in MoRTH (Ministry of Road Transport and Highways) shall also help in this regard and we expect the officers of both the Governments to interact and coordinate in this regard,” said the Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli.

The court earlier questioned the Centre on the supply assurance to Delhi: “That 480 MT is yet to see the light of the day. If they were getting 480, a lot of problems in Delhi would get solved. Nobody is saying you are being unfair or not working but the point is it is not reaching Delhi. Citizens cannot be allowed to die like this just because your 180 MT is not coming”.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta responded that he would not react if the court says that the Centre was fair or unfair because he is “not in any perception building exercise”. “There are certain many things which are known to me. I know my responsibility, I am not saying anything. Let us try not to be a cry baby,” Mehta said adding that the officer concerned would explain the position.

Additional Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Sumita Dawra told the court that some vehicles are being mobilised by manufacturers and local governments are also arranging their own tankers. However, the court said Delhi is not an industrial state and does not have that kind of infrastructure.

Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Delhi government, told the court that transportation is secondary, it’s supply that’s key. Central officials told the court that enough oxygen is available at the plants in eastern states but the question is of logistics. Empty cryogenic tanks have been airlifted to Durgapur, the court was told, adding that as soon as tankers come from Delhi, the Railways will start Oxygen Express from other plants.

The court then told the Delhi government that it was required to communicate with the Centre.

When the Delhi government said there is a shortage of tankers, the court said the state has to approach MoRTH. “That mechanism is there but if you don’t activate it then obviously things won’t work,” the court said, “your political head has himself been the officer of government, therefore, he knows how things are to be done. Independent of him also, bureaucracy knows”.

The court also pulled up the Delhi government for not carrying out the exercise, despite a direction from court Friday, to suggest to the Centre any other nearby plants from which it could be given oxygen supplies in place of the more distant ones in Rourkela, Durgapur and Kalinganagar. The government had simply made a request for realignment of the allocation.

“You cannot take one-sided view that for Delhi we require so much…give us from Haryana, UP or Himachal… as if you are not concerned about the people they are serving,” said the court, adding everyone was under stress and it wanted Delhi to give some quick ideas to the Centre.

SG Mehta told the court that allocation has been done in consultation with every state government and the Centre has to address the requirement of each state adding that a relook is always possible given the dynamic situation. Dawra told the court that an exercise was being done for other states too.

However, the court said, “Suppose nothing works out, ultimately the bottom line is when do we expect the quantity coming from Durgapur. Whoever is at fault is at fault but ultimately citizens are going to suffer if it does not come”.

Dawra said that Railways is ready to start transportation but requires the tankers and cited the example of the Uttar Pradesh government which got the medical oxygen via train Saturday.

SG Mehta also submitted before the court that Delhi government cannot abdicate its responsibility and should have made arrangements for tankers three days ago. Mehra submitted that the assurance was made that the supply of 480 MTs will be “granted by Central government”.

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