The Centre has allowed the import of oxygen concentrators for personal use. (File photo)
The Delhi High Court has asked the centre to provide details of oxygen concentrators that are lying with the customs department pending clearance. Amid the terrible oxygen crisis in Delhi triggered by the savage second wave of coronavirus, oxygen concentrators are hugely sought after medical equipment by hospitals running short of oxygen and patients on home isolation.
Nearly 40 deaths across several hospitals of the city have been put down to the shortage. Twelve people died at Batra Hospital on Saturday when oxygen ground to a halt for 80 minutes. One of the patients was a doctor. Twenty-five people had died last week.
Today, senior advocate Krishnan Venugopal urged the court to issue directions to the customs department to clear the oxygen concentrators "on war footing". He also submitted that Max Hospital's 3,000 concentrators are lying with customs for clearance.
The court asked the centre how many oxygen concentrators are lying with customs. "This is a dynamic number. There is an order saying the clearance process has to be completed within 3 hours," the centre said.
Asked if there was any backlog in clearance, the centre said it was not sure since everything is being cleared fast. "After three hours, nothing may be pending," the centre said, adding that 48,000 consignments have so far been cleared.
When the court said it was not satisfied with the response, the cente said it would find out and let the court know.
The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs later tweeted that the government has informed the court that no consignment is pending with the custom authorities.
"However, the social media has been flooded with the news that 3000 Oxygen Concentrators are lying with Customs. We have again checked with our field formations and there is no such consignment lying with the customs," read a statement it tweeted.
With the demand for oxygen concentrators shooting up, it has been part of the medical aid sent by several nations, including the US and the UK. The centre has also allowed the import of oxygen concentrators -- a device that filters out other gases from ambient air and channels pure oxygen -- for personal use.
During a rare sitting on Saturday, the court had ordered that Delhi must receive its full quota of medical oxygen that day "by whatever means".
"Water has gone above the head. You have to arrange everything now. You have made the allocations. You have to fulfil it. Eight lives have been lost. We can't shut our eyes to it," said the bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli.
The oxygen shortage issue has also reached the Supreme Court, which ordered last week that the deficit in the oxygen supply to Delhi must be rectified on or before midnight of May 3.