It would not be correct to say that Delhi “exaggerated” its oxygen needs by four times during the second wave of Covid, AIIMS chief Dr Randeep Guleria – who heads the sub group that led the audit- said, reacting to a report that has set off a new clash between the Centre and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the capital.
“Delhi oxygen audit is an interim report. We should wait for the final report,” Dr Guleria told NDTV this morning.
Asked whether the report was exaggerated four times, Dr Guleria replied, “I don’t think we could say that”.
“The matter is in the Supreme Court. We need to wait and see what the top court says about it. Undercounting of active cases and other factors need to be considered,” he added.
On Friday, a report circulated in the media – from sources close to the BJP – claiming that the Delhi government “exaggerated” the capital’s oxygen needs by four times at the peak of the second wave and the supply of excess oxygen to Delhi “affected other states”.
Central government sources said it is the interim report of a Supreme Court audit team. The Aam Aadmi Party government, however, insists there is no such report and the claim is part of “malicious and false” propaganda.
Based on the report, the Centre said that the Delhi government used the wrong formula to calculate its oxygen needs and made exaggerated claims in court on April 30.
“It was discussed that there is a gross discrepancy (about four times) in that the actual oxygen consumption claimed (1140MT) was about 4 times higher than the versus calculated consumption by formula for bed capacity (289MT),” says the interim report of a sub-group, which the Centre has submitted to the Supreme Court along with recommendations of a National Task Force on oxygen.
The sub-group, led by AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria, includes Delhi Government Principal Home Secretary Bhupinder Bhalla, Max Healthcare Director Sandeep Buddhiraja, Union Jal Shakti Ministry Joint Secretary Subodh Yadav and Sanjay Kumar Singh of the Petroleum and Oxygen Safety Organization (PESO).
The observations are from a study by PESO – a central government unit — that is part of the interim report.
The report also noted that Delhi’s infrastructure was inadequate for storing 700 MT, the amount that the Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to supply to Delhi.
“My crime is I fought for the lives of Delhi’s 2 crore people,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, reacting to the report.
“When you were addressing election rallies, I was awake all night arranging for oxygen. I fought and pleaded to arrange oxygen for people,” Mr Kejriwal said, in a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election rallies in West Bengal.
“People have lost their loved ones due to shortage of oxygen. Please don’t call them liars. They’re feeling very bad,” he added.
In the months of April and May, Delhi was devastated by a lethal second wave of the Covid pandemic claiming hundreds of lives daily, and leaving various city hospitals with an acute shortage of medical oxygen supply. Some of these hospitals even approached the court for help.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear the matter on oxygen supply, including this interim report, on May 30.