Delhi made exaggerated claims for Oxygen during second Covid wave, used wrong formula, panel tells SC

Some hospitals could not differentiate between Kilolitre and Metric Tonne
Last Updated 25 June 2021, 16:27 IST

A panel formed by the Supreme Court for Oxygen audit of Delhi has said the government of National Capital Territory used a wrong formula and made exaggerated claims for O2, affecting supply in other States, during the peak of second wave of Covid-19 pandemic between April and May, amid dissent from two members.

"It was not clear on what basis Delhi sought 700 MT in the top court when data collated by it for audit had gross errors," the sub-group said in its interim report.

The panel headed by AIIMS director Randeep Guleria and comprising Subodh Yadav, joint secretary, Jal Shakti Ministry, Bhupinder S Bhalla, principal secretary (home), Government of NCT, Delhi, Sandeep Budhiraja of Max Hospital, Delhi and Sanjay Kumar Singh, controller of explosives, PESO was formed by the top court on May 6.

Bhalla as well as Budhiraja, however, recorded their objections to the findings of the interim report.

"The manner in which the proceedings have been conducted, suggests that the purpose was to arrive at a pre-conceived and predetermined conclusion and narrative to recommend a lower quantity of Oxygen to Delhi and portray an impression that the assessment made by Delhi was exaggerated and not genuine," Bhalla wrote.

The Delhi government's officer maintained that the panel's proceedings were "a perfunctory desktop exercise, conducted hurriedly", resulting into "erroneous entries and even more erroneous conclusions".

The Delhi government further said it was "sad and shocking" that the panel arrived at sweeping conclusions without giving it an opportunity to explain. Budhiraja, who did not attend May 18 meeting of the sub-group, said despite request for circulation of minutes of the May 15 meeting, it was never done.

The report triggered a war of words as BJP's spokesman Sambit Patra claimed Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's politics of shifting the blame for his incompetence stood exposed. Delhi's deputy CM Manish Sisodia, however, contended no such report by the committee existed as he spoke to members of the sub-group who denied approving any report.

Indicting the Delhi government, the panel, for its part, found "gross discrepancy” in its claim of actual consumption of 1140 MT, which was four times higher than the calculated consumption of 289 MT in accordance with the bed capacity.

It pointed out Delhi's four hospitals Singhal, Aryan Asaf Ali, ESIC Model and Liferay claimed extremely high LMO (Liquid Medical Oxygen) consumption with very few beds.

"The claims appeared to be clearly erroneous leading to extremely skewed info and significantly higher Oxygen requirement," the report said.

Following “recalculation”, the panel said the actual consumption of 183 hospitals here as per data from Delhi government was 1140 MT. However, after correcting erroneous reporting by four hospitals, the figure was found as 209 MT.

It appeared the Delhi government used wrong formula and made exaggerated claims on April 30. Some hospitals could not differentiate between Kilolitre and Metric Tonne but this was not examined when 700 MT demand was projected, the panel in its interim report said.

Citing a study by Petroleum and Oxygen Safety Organization (PESO), the panel noted that actual requirement of Delhi was much less than what was demanded, making other states such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir “suffer badly”.

The report, prepared after carrying out a study between May 5 and 11, also contended that AAP government was neither auditing its usage of oxygen nor was assessing its realistic demand.

The Delhi government claimed its formula for Oxygen demand was based on ICMR guidelines but no such guidelines was placed before the panel, it said.

During the crisis, the top court had repeatedly asked the Centre to maintain daily supply of 700 MT Oxygen to Delhi.

(Published 25 June 2021, 06:57 IST)

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