A day after a Supreme Court-appointed panel’s report on Delhi’s medical oxygen demand set off a political firestorm, AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria on Saturday stated that the report was an “interim one” and that “oxygen requirements are dynamic and change from day-to-day”.
In the report, a five-member sub-group, constituted by the apex court last month for the oxygen audit of Delhi, headed by Guleria, had stated that Delhi’s oxygen needs were “exaggerated” by four times during the second Covid wave.
“It is an interim report. The oxygen needs are dynamic and change from day to day. The matter is subjudice,” the AIIMS chief was quoted as saying by news agency PTI, amid reports of dissent within the panel.
It has come to fore that the report, submitted to the Supreme Court, also led to a division within the 5-member sub-group with two members, Delhi Principal Secretary (Home) BS Bhalla and Max Healthcare Clinical Director (Internal Medicine) Sandeep Budhiraja, lodging their dissent, even skipping one of its sittings. They flagged their objections in two separate notes.
In a file noting of the Delhi Home Department, Bhalla Friday highlighted that the “interim report seems to have been sent to Government of India without making the requisite changes, without sharing again with the members of the sub-group, and without their formal approval”.
He said that his “detailed objections/comments have been added at the end of the interim report just for posterity, leaving it to the reader to make the effort, if he/she so decides, to interpret the entire report together and make his/her conclusions. This is unfortunate and unacceptable.”
He added that the interim report, as submitted, “does not have the approval of all the members of the sub-group.”
As the interim report emerged, a political firestorm erupted questioning the AAP’s government actions in such a dire situation. The BJP on Friday accused the Arvind Kejriwal-led dispensation of “criminal negligence”, while the AAP government charged the saffron party with “cooking up” such a report.
The Congress also waded into the row, with its Delhi unit chief Anil Chaudhary tweeting that adequate arrangements could have prevented tragedies such as the one at Jaipur Golden Hospital.
Reacting on the allegations, Chief Minister Kejriwal hit back, saying he fought so that “two crore people of Delhi could breathe”.
“My crime: I fought for the right of two crore Delhiites to breathe. When you were addressing election rallies, I spent sleepless nights trying to arrange oxygen for people. I fought, pleaded. People lose their loved ones due to shortage of oxygen. Don’t call them liars, they will feel very bad,” the CM said in a tweet in Hindi.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said members of the Supreme Court’s oxygen audit committee have “not signed or approved” the interim report. He also lashed out at the BJP, saying it is circulating a document prepared in “its party headquarters”.
On Saturday, Kejriwal, in a bid to move on from the controversy, urged everyone to work together to ensure there is no shortage of oxygen in the next Covid wave.
“If your fight over oxygen is over, then can we get to work? Let’s make such a system together that no one suffers due to lack of oxygen in the third wave. In the second wave, people faced a severe shortage of medical oxygen. Now this should not happen in the third wave. If we fight amongst ourselves, then corona will win. If we fight together, the country will win,” Kejriwal tweeted.
The sub-group constituted by the Supreme Court to audit oxygen consumption in hospitals in the national capital during the second wave said 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.
The five-member panel said the Delhi government had made the claims for allocation of 700 MT oxygen on April 30 of medical grade oxygen using a “wrong formula”.