Cong leaders drop oxygen at embassies, Centre snubs gesture

Youth Congress president B V Srinivas argued that his team delivered jumbo oxygen cylinders at the New Zealand and Philippines missions on Saturday following requests from these embassies

Delhi Youth Congress leaders with the oxygen cylinders outside the New Zealand embassy on Saturday (May 1). Pic: Twitter

Delhi Youth Congress leaders’ prompt response to an SOS for oxygen cylinders from New Zealand and Philippines embassies has sparked a verbal duel between the Centre and the Congress.

Indian Youth Congress president B V Srinivas as argued that his team delivered jumbo oxygen cylinders at the two missions on Saturday night (May 1) on requests from these embassies. Srinivas had tweeted visuals and videos of Youth Congress workers at the New Zealand Embassy with the oxygen.

The controversy began after senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “While I thank @IYC for its stellar efforts, as an Indian citizen I’m stunned that the youth wing of the opposition party is attending to SOS calls from foreign embassies. Is the MEA sleeping @DrSJaishankar?”

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar responded on Sunday (May 2): “MEA checked with the Philippines Embassy. This was an unsolicited supply as they had no COVID cases. Clearly for cheap publicity by you know who. Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling. Jairamji, MEA never sleeps; our people know across the world. MEA also never fakes; we know who does.”

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Srinivas told The Indian Express that one of the Youth Congress activists had received a call from someone on behalf of the Philippines embassy for cylinders and they responded accordingly.

“They requested for 10 small cylinders. We did not have small cylinders. We arranged for two jumbo cylinders…” Youth Congress leader Manu Dixit told The Indian Express.

Dixit objected to External Affairs Minister’s statement that “(Youth Congress) indulged in unsolicited supply of cylinders”.

“We are not delivery boys…that we got a delivery order and we entered the Embassy. We got a request and we helped…we are not doing politics here,” said Dixit.

Earlier on Saturday, the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi had put a tweet seeking help from Srinivas for an oxygen cylinder. To which Srinivas responded saying: “Right away. Please share further details in DM,” Srinivas responded.

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The New Zealand embassy later deleted the tweet and put out another one: “We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry.”

The official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said: “The Chief of Protocol and Heads of Divisions are in continuous touch with all High Commissions/Embassies and MEA is responding to their medical demands, especially those related to Covid. This includes facilitating their hospital treatment. Given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen.”

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