In the Centre versus Delhi clash over the oxygen crisis in hospitals in the capital, government sources have blamed the Arvind Kejriwal government, accusing it of delaying planned oxygen plants. The Delhi government has rubbished the allegation, calling it an "outright lie".
Central government sources claim proposed oxygen plants in four hospitals were delayed as the Delhi government did not submit "site readiness certificates". Sources in the Railway Ministry also alleged that even now, the Delhi government has not provided cryogenic tankers for the 'Oxygen Express'.
The Delhi government says these are "outrightly false statements" from the Centre to "hide its abject failure in setting up of oxygen plants in Delhi".
The Centre says eight pressure swing absorption (PSA) oxygen generation plants are being installed in Delhi with the support of the PMCARES fund and these are meant to enhance capacity of medical oxygen by 14.4 tonnes.
Four plants, one each at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital, Lok Nayak Hospital, Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital Rohini, and Deep Chand Bandhu Hospital are expected to be completed by the end of April.
Plans for the plants were drawn up last year and tenders given out in October, say central government sources, adding that the site readiness for these hospitals was delayed by the Delhi government despite weekly reviews November last year.
They say for the Ambedkar Nagar Hospital, Dakshinpuri, the site was made ready by the state government only on April 19. Site readiness certificate of another hospital - Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra Hospital, located in Narela - has not yet been submitted by the Delhi government, the centre has said.
According to the Delhi government, however, the plants for five hospitals were delivered in early March and only one was installed by the vendor, who was unresponsive.
"It is well known that Central government decided to setup 162 PSA plants all over India and issued tenders in October 2020. The plants were to be set up by Union Health Ministry through PM Cares fund, and not a single rupee was given to state governments. All these plants were supposed to have been installed by December 2020 and handed over to state governments. However, central government gave the contract for 140 of these plants to a single vendor, who ran away. As a result, across India not even 10 of these 162 plants have been made operational till date," said the Delhi government.
In Delhi, seven of the eight plants were to be set up at Delhi government hospitals and one at the Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital. "After multiple follow-ups" with the Centre, plants for five hospitals were delivered in March, said Delhi. Only one is operational, it said.
"As for the remaining two hospital locations, the plants have not even been received on site. We are shocked to learn that central government is now making the excuse of site certificate not being available from the Delhi government as a reason for delay in plants. This has never been brought to Delhi government's notice and is an outright lie," the Delhi government said in a statement.
That Delhi has no oxygen plant has come into focus as the ferocious second surge of Covid is ripping through the city.
The Delhi government has accused BJP-ruled neighbouring states of blocking medical oxygen. As the crisis was heard before the Delhi High Court, the Centre accused the Delhi government of "mismanaging oxygen distribution and sensationalising the issue".
During Saturday's hearing, when the Arvind Kejriwal government said it received only 297 of the 480 tonnes of oxygen in its quota and that the Centre was not sticking to court's guidelines, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Centre, said, "Let's try and not be a cry baby".
Over the last week, Covid patients have died in at least one Delhi hospital due to oxygen shortage. The court has promised action against anyone blocking oxygen supply.
Opposition-ruled states like Maharashtra had alleged discrimination in the distribution of Covid shots earlier this month, a charge that was denied by the Centre.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said, "The inability of Maharashtra government to act responsibly is beyond comprehension... The lackadaisical attitude of the state government has singularly bogged down the entire country's efforts to fight the virus". The minister had also accused the state of misleading people to deflect attention from what he called its poor performance in controlling the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally made it clear that fighting the pandemic cannot be a political issue. In his monthly radio address Mann Ki Baat, PM Modi, on Sunday, said the centre is dedicated to taking forward the efforts of the state governments in controlling Covid. "To tackle this wave of Covid, I have held meetings with experts from many fields like pharma industry, oxygen production etc," he said.