Skilled technicians monitor medical oxygen refilling lines at a supply plant in Ahmedabad on May 3, 2021, as the demand for medical oxygen increased amid Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Skilled technicians monitor medical oxygen refilling lines at a supply plant in Ahmedabad on May 3, 2021, as the demand for medical oxygen increased amid Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
(Photo by AFP)

New Delhi: The recriminations between the Centre and the Delhi government provide no solace to citizens whose lives hang by a "thin thread" of oxygen, the Supreme Court has said.

The top court accordingly directed the Centre to create a buffer stock of oxygen for emergency situations and decentralise the location of the stocks, so that it is immediately available if the normal supply chain is disrupted. It further asked the Centre to create emergency stocks of medical grade oxygen within four days.

The three-judge bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said the deficit must be remedied "forthwith" as "the situation on the ground in Delhi is heart rending".

The top court’s order was uploaded on its website late Sunday night. In the battle of shifting responsibility, "the protection of the lives of citizens is paramount in times of a national crisis and the responsibility falls on both the Central Government and the administration of Delhi,’’ the court said.

NO SHORTAGE: The Centre, meanwhile, made an absurd claim that there is no "shortage" of the life-giving gas; what matters is that the medical oxygen being administered to COVID-19 patients, especially in hospitals, should be used "judiciously." At a routine briefing on steps taken by the government to battle the COVID-19 crisis, the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, however, did acknowledge that there were problems of logistics and transportation. But the thrust of his submission was that citizens should not get "jittery.’’ He cited data to assert that while on August 1 last year, the total production was 5,700 metric tonnes, it is 9,000 metric tonnes as of now.

"This is 125 per cent of the daily production capacity (of medical oxygen)," he claimed.

HELD UP AT CUSTOMS: The Centre, meanwhile, has assured the Delhi High Court that it will honour the directions of the Supreme Court to bridge the deficit in oxygen supply to the national capital before midnight. The Bench was informed that six additional containers are coming to Delhi and each of them is carrying 20 metric tonnes of medical oxygen.

The bench also asked the Centre to inform it about the status of imported oxygen concentrators which are pending customs clearance. "People should not lose lives for this reason -- that there are resources, but the consignments are pending clearance,’’ the bench observed.

BEDS: There are 4.68 lakh beds for COVID-19 patients in over 2,084 dedicated hospitals across the country, the Centre further submitted in the Supreme Court. The availability of dedicated hospital beds in the country has been noted down in its order by a bench headed by Jusitce D Y Chandrachud which passed a slew of directions to ensure essential supplies and services to deal with the pandemic.

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