He held the Centre “fully responsible” for the oxygen crisis and demanded, without naming Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, that he be sacked immediately.
The “incompetent” leadership and “callousness” has driven India to the present COVID-19 ‘catastrophe,’ senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said on Wednesday as he blamed the Centre for the shortage of medical oxygen.
In a statement, the former Union Minister held the Centre “fully responsible” for the oxygen crisis and demanded, without naming Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, that he be sacked immediately.
Mr. Chavan also recalled the Union Health Secretary’s remarks made in a press conference on October 20 that India was in an “extremely comfortable position when it came to medical oxygen supply and that there was no shortage”.
Mr. Chavan said the Health Secretary had stated that the government was proactively planning to install PSA (Pressure Swing Adsorption) oxygen generating plants in 390 hospitals across the country.
The Health Secretary had also said the Central government had initiated the import of one lakh MT (metric tonne) of liquid medical oxygen to address the anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases, Mr. Chavan stated.
“It is clear that the government miserably failed to act in time to ensure adequate supplies of oxygen, resulting in an unprecedented oxygen crisis,” the former Maharashtra Chief Minister said.
The senior Congress leader also said that “desperate” calls were being made every minute by hospitals and patients for medical oxygen.
Hospitals are refusing to admit patients and reports of patients dying due to the lack of oxygen are pouring in from all over the country, he stated.
“The government must answer how did the Ministry assume that we [the country] were in an extremely comfortable position when it comes to the supply of medical oxygen.
“Why prompt, effective action was not taken to import the planned one lakh MT liquid medical oxygen during the past five months?” Mr. Chavan asked.
He sought to know whether only 33 out of the planned PSA oxygen generators have been installed in hospitals so far.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s self-proclaimed victory over the COVID-19 pandemic at the World Economic Forum had left the global community aghast, particularly as more than 50 countries have banned incoming flights from India. And now India is desperately asking for oxygen and other medical supplies from those countries,” Mr. Chavan said.
He said the people are paying a huge price for this “incompetent leadership”, which with complacency and callousness, has driven India to this catastrophe.
Mr. Chavan also said he was appalled by the April 26 statement of the (Union) Home Ministry claiming enough availability of oxygen.
“It shows the government is still in a denial mode. Relatives of COVID-19 patients who have died due to lack of oxygen want answers. I demand that the Minister of health and others responsible for this tragedy be sacked immediately,” he demanded.
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