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Citizens can’t be allowed to die for lack of oxygen; Centre and Delhi govt should coordinate to make arrangements: HC

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Observing that citizens cannot be allowed to die for the lack of oxygen, the Delhi High Court on Saturday directed the Centre and Delhi to coordinate between themselves for arranging the cryogenic tankers to ensure that hospitals in the national capital are given the complete allocated quantity of 480 MTs of oxygen. Delhi on Saturday received only 305 MTs against the total allocation of 480 MTs.

The division bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli also asked the Delhi government to make all-out efforts on its part as well for procurement of the tankers. It directed the oxygen suppliers to share the complete information with Delhi government about their supply to hospitals, the timing and quantity.

The Delhi government earlier said it does not know about the supply line of oxygen.

The court on Saturday held a special hearing as more hospitals sought its urgent intervention regarding the depleting oxygen levels at their institutes. The HC has been monitoring the medical oxygen situation regularly and has passed several directions to both the Centre and the Delhi government since earlier this week.

Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing Delhi government, on Saturday told the court that the oxygen supply to Delhi was reducing as suppliers are not fulfilling their commitment. “Because of the total chaotic situation which is prevailing and the absolutely disorderly functioning of transportation and suppliers, we have to now micromanage. If there is a demand of 10 MTs from the hospital, we are giving them 1 MT. How will the hospitals function? The allocation of 480 MTs must translate into practicality. If we do not get this 480 now, some incident is bound to happen any minute. We are going to lose a massive number of lives,” Mehra told the court.

Mehra also told the court that the hospitals have informed the government that they have been told local officers are sitting inside the plants where they are located despite the court’s order. “What they are doing now is that they are not stopping it on the roads because that’s visible. They are only rationing it at the end where it has to come out of the factories. They are not allowing the entire allocated amount to be diverted to Delhi,” he submitted before the court.

While seeking specific instances from the Delhi government, the court said that it will initiate proceedings right away when provided with the exact information. “This definite information will have to be placed before us. You place before us one instance, rest assured we are going to hang that man whoever is responsible. We are not going to spare anyone,” said the court.

The court on Saturday also pulled up the Delhi government for not providing proper suggestions to the Centre regarding supply of oxygen from nearby plants in place of its allocated oxygen supply from plants in West Bengal and Orissa. It also asked the Delhi government to make arrangements for tankers. The Centre earlier told the court that the railways are ready to start transport of oxygen to Delhi from distant plants as soon as tankers are made available.

The bench also asked the Centre on Saturday about the arrangements being made to deal with the rise in Covid cases. “We are going to hit peak in mid-May. It’s a tsunami actually. How are we going to build capacity? How are we preparing as on date about the situation of mid-May? What are the numbers we are looking at? Some people will eventually die. It’s inevitable. Those who could be saved, we are losing those persons too. Those people who can fight it are saved, we need to look at that. Our mortality will otherwise go up. We should be able to reduce mortality,” the court said.

Regarding the situation in hospitals, the court on Saturday also suggested providing Delhi Police security to them since patients are being discharged from there due to the lack of oxygen supply. “Let’s face reality. If admissions aren’t being made, we know how people react. We don’t want law and order situation. If riots break out at hospitals, what will happen? There are deaths taking place,” it said.