New Delhi: As the political bickering continues between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP on the Covid-19 situation in Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal government, during a review meeting called by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), was pulled up for the sustained dip in daily testing numbers, the inability to procure oxygen and ensure its equitable distribution.
On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court also came down heavily on the AAP government over its “failure” to check black-marketing of oxygen cylinders and crucial medicines, and said it will ask the central government to take over gas refiller units if the state cannot handle the situation.
At the review meeting Monday, the Delhi government was also slammed for the delay in restarting the Covid-19 care centres at Chhattarpur and Delhi Cantonment in time for the surge, and was asked whether the dip in testing was because of a shortage of testing kits.
The meeting was chaired by Principal Secretary to prime minister P.K. Mishra, and attended by Delhi Chief Secretary Vijay Dev for some time (before he left for the Delhi High Court).
The state government, according to sources present in the meeting, cited a delay in test results as the reason for the dip. Delhi, which was testing between 90,000 to over a lakh people a day, has now reduced to 70,000-75,000 tests per day even though the test positivity rate is still at over 30 per cent.
“The government was asked whether there is a shortage of kits. They said the delay in test results is causing the dip but that did not cut ice. PMO was upset about the repeated calls from people who could not get tested and officials pointed out that delays could cause a pendency in results but not the actual number of tests performed,” said an official who was present in the meeting.
On 26 April, tests fell to a low of 57,690.
The Delhi government was also pulled up for “overstating its oxygen requirement and the order that mandated that only 17 hospitals would get oxygen and not the other 28”.
Sources said cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, who was also present in the meeting, asked Ashish Verma, officer on special duty in the department of health, Delhi government, the rationale for such an order. Gauba was told that hospitals that were using oxygen cylinders had been left out, which sources said did not go down well with the cabinet secretary.
‘Overstating oxygen requirement’
Others who attended the meeting were Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Railway Board Chairman Suneet Sharma, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Secretary Giridhar Aramane.
The Delhi government was quizzed about its demand for 700 MT of oxygen.
“Government of India officials pointed out that in the last surge in November, Delhi had needed 150 MT oxygen. Now it has 490 MT, which is more than double. It was also asked about the delay in tankers and the failure to reach out to the railways on time for oxygen transportation,” said an official who was present in the meeting.
Sharma responded that the Delhi government had not spoken to the Indian Railways on this. The state government was also criticised for procuring just 335 MT Sunday — a sharp dip from the 370-380 MT that it had been procuring over the last few days. The government told the Centre that they have issued advertisements for oxygen tankers.
Delhi government officials told the PMO that the issue of transportation from states such as Odisha and Jharkhand is complex and also accused Rajasthan of taking away supplies meant for Delhi.
Central officials, according to sources, responded that Rajasthan being farther away from the eastern oxygen producing states, was allocated the gas before Delhi but did not eat into its share.
The Delhi government was also asked about the vacant beds position that the website shows even when people are running around to get beds.
Officials were asked to ensure that people who do not need to be hospitalised do not hog beds that may save lives.
“Such people should go to Covid care centres,” they were told. The government was also asked why the Chhattarpur centre took a long time to be restarted when the projections had shown that a surge was coming. The Delhi government’s defence was that the surge was too sudden.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)