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Delhi hospitals gasp as Haryana refuses to share oxygen, then Centre steps in to resolve row

Haryana’s Home and Health Minister Anil Vij says since Rajasthan & Himachal blocked supply to his state, it would use what it produces for its own needs, and only share what’s left.

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Chandigarh/New Delhi: Some hospitals in national capital Delhi were impacted Wednesday afternoon when Haryana Home and Health Minister Anil Vij ordered the stoppage of oxygen supply to all neighbouring states. Following this, a plant in Faridabad that was supplying the gas to Delhi hospitals was sealed.

However, later in the evening, the central government clarified that the “confusion” had been mutually resolved.

While minister Vij made it amply clear that Haryana would not share its oxygen till its own requirements were met, a senior official in the Haryana Chief Minister’s Office told ThePrint that no such order had been issued.

“I want to make clear that we have not banned the supply of oxygen to any state, including Delhi. We have asked the Government of India to take all four states (Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana) on board and form a joint oxygen supply regulatory mechanism,” the official said.

Meanwhile, the Modi government made fresh allocations of oxygen supply. Vij wrote on Twitter that Haryana had been allocated 107 metric tonnes of oxygen, while Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal also thanked the government for increasing the allocation, but did not specify the amount.

In an interaction with industry representatives, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also said that oxygen supply has been neatly mapped and new permissions have been given, particularly for the 12 hard-stressed states (Delhi, Maharashtra, UP, Chhattisgarh, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala). She added that the government is closely monitoring supply at district level.

Also read: ‘Why is Centre not waking up to gravity of the situation’: Delhi HC on oxygen crisis

Vij’s tirade

Speaking to news agency ANI Wednesday afternoon, Vij cited similar orders issued by Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh to justify that oxygen produced in Haryana would first be used for its own needs, and if there was any to spare, it would then be shared with other states.

“First, we were getting oxygen from Baddi in Himachal Pradesh, but that supply was stopped. Then, the supply from Bhiwadi in Rajasthan was stopped. We have no option but to keep our oxygen for ourselves,” he said.

Haryana has over 50,000 active Covid cases, with more than 7,500 fresh cases being reported daily. There are almost 1,000 patients on oxygen support in various Covid-care facilities across the state.

The BJP leader added that he had deployed health officials and the state police outside all oxygen supply plants in Haryana, and tankers carrying the gas too were being manned by the police.

“Yesterday, a tanker carrying oxygen for Faridabad was looted in Delhi. This is not done. We will not allow it. All our oxygen tankers have police as guards travelling with them,” Vij said, adding that Haryana is producing 270 metric tonnes of oxygen.

Also read: Amarinder Singh writes to Centre seeking daily allocation of 120 MT of oxygen for Punjab

Linde India plant sealed

Following Vij’s comments, the authorities in Faridabad reportedly sealed oxygen supplier Linde India, leading to a host of hospitals in Delhi reporting acute shortage of oxygen.

Dr John Punnoose, associate medical director at St Stephen’s Hospital, where 300 patients are on oxygen support, told NDTV that the hospital only had a few hours of supply left after Linde’s plant was sealed.

“They (oxygen tankers) cannot come to Delhi. They have refused,” Punnoose said.

Manipal Hospital, with more than 200 Covid patients, was also left facing an acute oxygen shortage.

ThePrint reached Linde India’s spokesperson over email for a comment, but the email bounced. Two company representatives were reached through telephone but they refused to comment, saying they are “not the right people”.

However, in the evening, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a press briefing that the issue had been resolved, and attributed it to “confusion”.

“There is a 24/7 control room with multiple telephone lines and email, on which state governments tell us about oxygen problems. The problem of trucks being stuck at Faridabad has been resolved. When there are multiple stakeholders during a pandemic, there are sometimes confusions. Onus is on the Centre and state governments to work together,” Bhushan said.

Haryana CMO’s clarification

A senior official in the Haryana Chief Minister’s Office told ThePrint that the state government had taken up the matter with the central government Wednesday evening.

“The oxygen supply needs to be apportioned and distributed in a regulated manner between these states. The government of India is going to come up with some plan,” he added.

The official also pointed to instances of oxygen supplies coming in to Haryana’s hospitals being stopped.

“Rajasthan stopped supply of oxygen to Haryana impacting our hospitals in Gurugram and Rohtak. A sub-divisional magistrate in Delhi stopped our tankers from reaching Faridabad Tuesday. The oxygen was diverted and supplied to a Delhi hospital. The reaction in Faridabad (sealing Linde India’s plant) was probably a retaliatory one by district officials,” the official claimed.

(With inputs from Chitleen K Sethi, Abantika Ghosh and Remya Nair)

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Protesting farmers reject allegations about blocking oxygen transport to Delhi


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