Kejriwal’s oxygen request to Modi ‘with folded hands’ sparks reaction from Centre
Raising alarm that a "big tragedy" may happen due to oxygen shortage in hospitals during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said the Centre should take over all oxygen plants through the Army.
In a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Covid-19 situation, Kejriwal requested him to direct chief ministers of all states to ensure smooth movement of oxygen tankers coming to the national capital.
"People in major pain due to oxygen shortage. We fear a big tragedy may happen due to oxygen shortage and we will never be able to forgive ourselves. I request you with folded hands to direct all CMs to ensure smooth movement of oxygen tankers coming to Delhi," he said during the meeting.
"We need a national plan to deal with the crisis. The Central government should take over all oxygen plants through the Army and every tanker coming out of the oxygen plant should be accompanied by an Army escort vehicle," he said.
"The oxygen supply scheduled to come to Delhi from Odisha and West Bengal should either be airlifted or brought through the Oxygen express started by the Centre," he said.
The chief minister also objected to different rates being charged from state governments and the Centre for the Covid-19 vaccine, and said "one nation, one rate" policy should be followed.
Prime Minister Modi held a meeting on Friday with chief ministers of 10 states with the most number of Covid-19 cases.
The meeting via video conferencing comes amid a huge surge in coronavirus cases, which have now clocked a daily total of over 3 lakh in the country.
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.
Meanwhile, sources in the Centre government alleged that "Kejriwal used the entire PM-CM meet platform for playing politics".
"He raised the point of airlifting oxygen, but did not know that it was already being done. He spoke about Oxygen express by Railways but Railway sources say he has not communicated anything about it to Railways. He chose to spread lies on vaccine prices despite knowing that the Centre does not keep one vaccine dose with itself and shares with states only. All CMs spoke about what they are doing to improve the situation. However, Kejriwal had nothing to speak on what he is doing," a source said.
Responding to the sharp reaction of the Union government officials, the chief minister's office (CMO) issued a brief statement, saying "Today, the CM address was shared live because there has never been any instruction, written or verbal, from central govt that the said interaction could not be shared live.
"There have been multiple occasions of similar interactions where matters of public importance which had no confidential information were shared live. However, if any inconvenience was caused we highly regret that."