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Red faces in govt as New Zealand mission tweets oxygen SOS to Youth Congress, apologises

The High Commission first asked Congress leader Srinivas B.V. for oxygen. It later deleted the tweet and apologised for 'misinterpretation'.

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New Delhi: The High Commission of New Zealand got entangled in a political row Sunday, after it made an urgent appeal for oxygen supplies to Srinivas B.V., the president of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC). The embassy deleted the tweet minutes later and apologised subsequently.

The request came amid desperate calls for oxygen from all quarters in the national capital. India is reeling under a massive Covid-19 surge, which has resulted in severe shortage of several medical items. Hospitals too are making SOS calls on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.

“We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry,” the mission said in a post after the original tweet, where it had made a request directly to Srinivas.

The first tweet, which caused the row, read: “.@sosiyc @srinivasiyc Could you please help with Oxygen cylinder urgently at the New Zealand High Commission? Thank you.”

While this tweet was deleted, Srinivas responded to it saying, “Right away. Please share further details in DM. #SOSIYC.”

Srinivas and his team reached the New Zealand High Commission with oxygen cylinders within minutes and requested the mission to “open the gates”.

“We have reached New Zealand High Commission with oxygen cylinders. Please open the gates and save a soul on time. #SOSIYC,” he said in a tweet.

Several minutes later, the embassy let Srinivas’ team in with the supplies of oxygen.

“Update- New Zealand high commission opened gates of the embassy and accepted cylinders. Also, they thanked the #SOSIYC team for this quick relief as patient inside embassy was critically ill,” he said in a third tweet.

Also read: India receives first consignment of Sputnik V Covid vaccine from Russia

Battle over oxygen supplies to Philippines embassy too

This latest row came just after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar got into a Twitter battle with senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh over the same issue on oxygen supplies to foreign missions based in New Delhi.

Late Thursday, Ramesh asked if the Ministry of External Affairs was sleeping after the Philippines embassy seemingly reached out to the Youth Congress for oxygen supplies. Srinivas and his team had reached the Philippines embassy with oxygen cylinders.

“While I thank @IYC for its stellar efforts, as an Indian citizen I’m stunned that the youth wing of the opposition party is attending to SOS calls from foreign embassies. Is the MEA sleeping @DrSJaishankar?,” Ramesh said in a tweet Saturday.

To this, Jaishankar retorted sharply, taking a jibe at Srinivas and calling it “unsolicited supply”.

“MEA checked with the Philippines Embassy. This was an unsolicited supply as they had no Covid cases. Clearly for cheap publicity by you know who. Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling,” he said.

He added another tweet in the thread: “Jairamji, MEA never sleeps; our people know across the world. MEA also never fakes; we know who does.”

In reply to the minister’s tweet, the IYC said the demand was “much solicited”. It attached screenshots of what it claimed was its communication with the Philippines embassy.

Don’t hoard, says MEA

The MEA issued a statement later in response to requests being made for medical requirements by foreign high commissions and embassies in India.

“The Chief of Protocol and Heads of Divisions are in continuous touch with all High Commissions/Embassies and MEA is responding to their medical demands, especially those related to Covid. This includes facilitating their hospital treatment,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

“Given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen,” he added.

This report has been updated to add the IYC response to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s tweet.

Also read: Xi Jinping writes to PM Modi, offers China’s support to counter Covid crisis


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