Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday made an earnest appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make the required phone calls to ensure the airlifting of oxygen from Odisha and West Bengal to the national capital, which for the past few days has been reeling under acute crisis of medical oxygen to cater to COVID patients.
Kejriwal made the appeal at a meeting of chief ministers of 10 most affected states presided by the prime minister. The interaction was telecast on live television.
“There is a huge shortage of oxygen in Delhi. Will people of Delhi not get oxygen if there is no oxygen-producing plant here? Please suggest whom should I speak to in central government when an oxygen tanker destined for Delhi is stopped in another state,” Kejriwal said.
“Sir, please, do make a phone call to the chief minister of the state where maximum trucks (oxygen tankers) are being stopped so oxygen can reach Delhi,” Kejriwal urged Modi.
The Delhi chief minister also suggested the Centre to take over all oxygen plants through Army and ensure that every truck ferrying oxygen is accompanied by an Army escort vehicle.
Government sources, however, have called Kejriwal’s appeal a political gimmick while asserting that the interaction between him and Modi was not meant to be televised.
“For the first time, private conversations of the PM’s meeting with CMs is being televised. His (Kejriwal) entire speech was not meant for any solution but for playing politics and evading responsibility,” reports quoted sources as saying.
“He chose to spread lies on vaccine prices despite knowing that Centre does not keep one vaccine dose with itself and shares with states only,” the sources said.
Accusing Kejriwal of being ignorant of facts related to oxygen supply, the sources said he urged the prime minister to facilitate airlifting of oxygen without knowing that it is already being done.
“He spoke about Oxygen express by Railways but Railway sources say that he has not communicated anything about it to Railways,” they said.
The Centre on Thursday invoked the Disaster Management Act 2005, and asked states to ensure smooth transportation of oxygen without restrictions amid complaints of oxygen supplies being diverted by several states to local hospitals instead of the destined state.
Earlier on Thursday, the Supreme Court taking suo motu cognizance of SOS call made by several states over medical oxygen, had asked the Centre to chart out a national plan to sort out the issue.
“We want to know. In regard to the four issues of supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination and we want to keep the power to declare lockout with the states,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said.
Modi’s meeting with CMs comes on a day the country logged in another record single-day spike of 3.23 lakh COVID-19 cases.
Chief ministers of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi are among those who attended the meeting.
Modi will hold a meeting with leading oxygen manufacturers in the country via video conference amid concerns expressed by some states that their supply of the life-saving gas is running short with a number of hospitals sending out SOS.