How the tragic reality of oxygen crisis in Delhi unfolded in Covid 2.0

Delhi is on SOS mode ever since the unfolding of the medical oxygen crisis in the second wave of the Covid pandemic.

 |  4-minute read |   04-05-2021
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Delhi, after being hit massively by the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, is setting new records every day with a higher Covid positivity rate and increase in deaths. The city is a grim picture of the total collapse of the health infrastructure that has failed to meet the exigencies of the unprecedented Covid surge.

It is no coincidence that in early March, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium (INSACOG) forewarned the government about the new and more contagious variant of the virus. However, the government chose to ignore the warning and did not prepare itself for the worst unforeseen circumstances. Instead of the government easing the discomfort of citizens, the quest for encashing political opportunities in times of a pandemic began.

Gradually, the crisis in Delhi got aggravated with the caustic modes of negotiation between the BJP-ruled Centre and the AAP-ruled Delhi government.

main_oxygen-in-auto-_050321072426.jpgThe acute shortage of medical oxygen supply to hospitals is a shameful catastrophe. (Photo: PTI)

Delhi is on SOS mode ever since the unfolding of the medical oxygen crisis. The acute shortage of medical oxygen supply to hospitals is a shameful catastrophe. A week ago, at a meeting of Chief Ministers of high-caseload dense states with the PM, Delhi CM Kejriwal briefed PM Modi about the ticking bomb-like situation in Delhi, where several hospitals toiled with a deluge of Covid-19 patients and approached the high court or sent out distress messages with only a few hours of supply left. A week later, the death of 12 critically ill patients in Batra Hospital in the capital, due to the lack of adequate oxygen supply, shows how power has corrupted the system. Delhi’s suffering is directly influenced by the deliberate fall-out of the political relationship between the AAP and the BJP. The rivalry between the two is out in the open.

The oxygen supply and distribution to the states rests with the Centre. The Centre has been somewhat discretionary in distributing medical supply to the state despite states making specific need-based demands. Many states have received surplus oxygen above their quota and requirements, while a few states have been denied even the quota, leave alone the increased requirements. With the positivity rate staggering at 31-32 per cent, the Delhi government has been increasing hospital beds and has equitably demanded from the Centre 700 MT oxygen in the light of everyday rise in Covid cases. The oxygen quota allocated by the Centre is 490 MT, while 312 MT is what Delhi has received in actuality. Such discrepancy and step-motherly treatment to the capital city which has been flocked by patients even from neighbouring states in expectation of better health facility is the death of democratic ethos. It is outrageous that in petty knock-out politicking, the vulnerabilities of the marginalised has increased manifolds with no government to take care of them.

The intervention of the Delhi High Court to ensure that Delhi gets a consistent oxygen supply from the Centre may just be a way forward to end the deadlock between the Centre and Delhi government. The Delhi High Court has threatened to initiate contempt proceedings if its direction on supplying 490 MTs of medical oxygen to Delhi is not met with, and has directed the Centre to arrange cryogenic tankers for Delhi. The bickering of the Centre and Delhi over each other’s jurisdiction is rather de trop in this hour of emergency.

The breakdown of the key health infrastructure is bound to be accelerated if both the units of the federal structure of the Indian Union do not cooperate but compete with each other. In such unprecedented times, in a developing country like ours that has been struggling to meet its needs, the constitutional intention of robust collaboration of different federal units can give a push to augmenting its capabilities.

In fact, to revitalise our institutionalised structures, the Centre and the state could build partnerships with opposition political parties and allow the participation of the best minds of the citizenry to tide over this imbroglio. If this opportunity to serve the people is missed, the public memory of pain, torment and humiliation at the hands of its own elected government will not be forgotten.

Also Read | Covid-19 second wave: We need action. Not reaction


Anita Tagore Anita Tagore @anitatagore

The author is an Associate Professor at Kalindi College, University of Delhi. She teaches political science and is a socio-legal researcher.

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