A report by a group under the Supreme Court-appointed panel to audit medical oxygen use in Delhi is an interim document and not the final word, AIIMS director and chairman of the subgroup Dr Randeep Guleria said on Saturday, indicating that claims of a fourfold exaggeration in demand by the Capital were inaccurate.
A political row has erupted between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the interim report. The report suggested there was “gross discrepancy” in recording the requirement of medical oxygen by 183 of Delhi’s hospitals, which asked for 1,140MT as opposed to the actual requirement of 209MT.
Dr Guleria said the controversy over exaggerated demand was unnecessary as the requirement of medical oxygen was dynamic in nature, adding that the report by the subgroup he heads was interim and people should wait for the final version. “The final report will cover all terms of references,” he told Hindustan Times. He added that the report only talked about how much oxygen was needed and how much was used by hospitals, which was dynamic at the time.
According to an NDTV report, when asked if the report was exaggerated four times, Dr Guleria said: “I don’t think we could say that.” The Delhi government has said that the report is invalid, and its findings incorrect. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday the acute shortage of oxygen during Covid-19’s fourth wave in the national capital was real, even as he appealed for an end to the political controversy and for everyone to work together.
The panel is a subgroup headed by Dr Guleria. Its other members are Subodh Yadav, a joint secretary in the Jal Shakti ministry, Dr Sandeep Budhiraja from Max Healthcare, Bhupinder S Bhalla, principal secretary, home, Delhi government, and Sanjay Kumar Singh, the controller of explosives at the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO).
In the annexures attached with the report, two of the members — Dr Budhiraja and Bhalla — submitted discordant notes on the procedure and details of the findings. An internal note by Bhalla on Friday evening suggested some members of the panel had not approved the report.
“It’s an interim report and it’s subjudice. It has been given to the court; we have submitted it as was required. It’s an ongoing process and it’s difficult to say what the final report will actually say,” Dr Guleria told news agency ANI. “Oxygen requirement and what was actually used has been shown and discrepancy has been there. It is not correct to say that it was less or more, because that is something which is dynamic,” he added.
“The matter is in the Supreme Court. We need to wait and see what the top court says about it. Undercounting of active cases and other factors need to be considered,” he told NDTV.
Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta on Saturday demanded Kejriwal’s apology for “oxygen mismanagement” and said his government “exaggerated” consumption of the life-saving gas.
The report marks the latest chapter in a spat between the Centre and the Delhi government. The Delhi government’s position was that the Union government was not allocating it enough oxygen. The Centre’s position was that Delhi’s needs were overstated.