With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, Uttar Pradesh has emerged as one of the worst affected states. As per Health Ministry data on Thursday morning, it now stands second in the list of worst affected states with a little more than three lakh active cases. And to make matters worse, contradictory reports and allegations abound when it comes to the ground situation.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently insisted that the state had adequate oxygen stock, directing officials to utilise the National Security Act to take action against hospitals alleging a shortage. More recently, an FIR was filed against a man who had taken to Twitter seeking oxygen for his grandfather in Amethi. A quick perusal of Twitter however shows that he is not alone. In recent days, countless individuals have made efforts to procure relevant medical supplies, including oxygen, via social media.
On Wednesday, a video of a man pleading with police officials even as others carried away an oxygen cylinder went viral for all the wrong reasons. The clip, initially shared by a journalist, contended that the man had procured the confiscated cylinder for his ailing mother. Times of India journalist Deepak Lavania added that the cylinder had reportedly been "confiscated from private hospital in Agra to supply it for a VIP".
The reactions were quick and cricical. "This is beyond tragic. Hope he doesn’t have to face an FIR," tweeted Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi.
"Just no words to express my outrage. How can the "system" be so blind to the sufferings of its people? What has gone so wrong?" wondered Congress leader Ruchika Chaturvedi.
As people began tagging officials seeking an explanation, the Agra Police issued a clarification, even as IAS officer Sanjeev Gupta stepped up to find out the details.
The Agra Police contends that video from Upadhyay Hospital had been misreported. According to the SP, the cylinder had been empty and the man in question has been requesting the police to help arrange for a cylinder for his family member.
"As per the initial inputs from Commissioner, DM wasn't aware of this incident and will find out soon. But yes, there has been shortage of O2 in Agra and the allegation can't be ruled out. I can understand that due to overall scarcity of Oxygen, there can be critical touch and go situations and I have been grappling with these day and night (on a humanitarian basis as I don't deal with it officially). Sometimes it may lead to rather low pressure in Oxygenation process for individual patients, but a Cylinder can't be taken away from hospital forcibly," Gupta explained soon after the queries began.
He later posted an update that appears to corroborate the empty cylinder contention. Despite the clarifications however, many on Twitter appear to remain unconvinced.