'Report not final,' says AIIMS chief on Delhi oxygen controversy
On Friday, a storm erupted between officials in the central government and Delhi administration over an interim report filed in the Supreme Court of India. That report purportedly states that the Delhi government had exaggerated its medical oxygen requirements by four times during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Dr. Randeep Guleria of AIIMS has said it would be incorrect to say so.
"Delhi oxygen audit is an interim report. I don't think we could say four times exaggeration," Dr. Guleria told NDTV in an interview today. "The matter is in the Supreme Court. We need to wait and see what the top court says about it," he added. Dr. Guleria notably leads the panel constituted to conduct an oxygen audit in the national capital.
A report circulated in the media on Friday, claiming the Delhi government had "exaggerated" the city's medical oxygen needs at the peak of the second wave of the pandemic. Centre, on the basis of that report, remarked the Delhi government used a wrong formula to calculate its oxygen requirements and "excess supply" to the capital "affected other states."
"It was discussed that there is a gross discrepancy (about four times) in that the actual oxygen consumption claimed (1140MT) was about four times higher than the versus calculated consumption by formula for bed capacity (289MT)," the interim report read.
Besides Dr. Guleria, the audit panel also comprised Delhi Government Principal Home Secretary Bhupinder Bhalla, Max Healthcare Director Sandeep Buddhiraja, Union Jal Shakti Ministry Joint Secretary Subodh Yadav, and Sanjay Kumar Singh of the Petroleum and Oxygen Safety Organization (PESO). After the report came to light, two members - Bhalla and Buddhiraja - raised objections against the claims being made about it.
Leaders of the BJP and the Congress had launched an attack against the Delhi government in view of the new report. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hit back at them, saying, "My crime is I fought for the lives of Delhi's 2 crore people." Members of the audit committee have not yet signed the report, his deputy, Manish Sisodia, said.
In April-May, Delhi was gripped by a brutal second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that claimed hundreds of lives there daily. Many hospitals across the city reported an acute shortage of medical oxygen to treat patients while dozens died allegedly due to the dearth of the life-saving gas. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the matter on June 30.