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Saturday, March 2, 2024

How Kejriwal led Delhi govt mismanaged Covid

Delhi has been reeling under rising cases of Chinese Virus and the health infrastructure in the nation’s capital has totally crumbled leaving citizens of Delhi gasping for breath (literally & figuratively). A closer look at the entire situation would, however, highlight how the Kejriwal-led Delhi government has mismanaged the pandemic and triggered a health crisis in the capital.

The dire situation in Delhi is a self-inflicted one due to the mismanagement by the Kejriwal government. Even the Delhi High Court (HC) had heavily criticized the Kejriwal government for mismanagement when it noted on 27 April “Pull Up Your Socks, Get your house in order. Enough is enough. If you cannot do it, tell us, we will ask the Central Government to take over. People are dying!”

The curious case of the Indira Gandhi Hospital at Dwarka

Shockingly, while Delhi residents were running from pillar to post due to a shortage of beds and CM Kejriwal himself was claiming beds to be in short supply, a 1725 bed facility was lying unused at the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Dwarka. Several Delhi residents have raised questions about this criminal negligence. It is an even more shocking fact that the hospital that was ready in 2017-18 wasn’t operational only because it hadn’t been ‘inaugurated‘.

Many Reddit users who are Delhi residents have raised their concerns about this hospital –

Bhumi Pujan for this hospital was done almost 25 years back by former CM of Delhi, Sahib Singh Verma. When Sheila Dikshit came in power, as the tradition has been with Congress governments she renamed the Hospital to Indira Gandhi Hospital. Sheila Dikshit in her tenure ensured that most of the construction work was done.

Kejriwal did not bother to carry on from where Sheila Dikshit had left the job for opening of this hospital. There could be valid reasons behind the delay, but shockingly one of the Redditors /u/CHE_EZE found out that for last one year when Delhi is ravaged by the ongoing pandemic, Kejriwal government has been using this hospital for their PR continuously without even bothering to actually inaugurate and start the hospital.

The reason for the AAP government not starting operations in this facility is not clear.

A video of Delhi BJP leader Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma has been posted on Reddit, where he points out that all the Delhi government had to do was to arrange beds and open the facility for public use. He also said that the hospital building has been lying unused for the last 6 years and even though it has an oxygen plant, the plant isn’t functional. He said that the tax money of common Delhi citizens is being wasted and added that if Kejriwal granted him permission then he would arrange for 50 beds and oxygen cylinders.

The tale of how AAP has spun the news about this one hospital and constantly shifted the goal-posts is a classic example of all talk, no work.

In Apr, 2020 – AAP said that they will convert this hospital into a 2500 bed Covid facility.

In Sep 2020 – AAP again repeated that this hospital will be converted into a Covid facility and will be ready in six months (i.e. by March 2021).

In Feb 2021 – AAP now said that they will start this hospital by June, 2021

In Mar, 2021 – Delhi Deputy CM Sisodia in his budget speech said that the hospital would be ready next year, while glorifying Kejriwal’s pet project Mohalla Clinic.

All this while, AAP IT cell accounts kept promoting this hospital as a ‘big boost to Delhi’s health infrastructure’

When Covid cases surged in April at an astonishing speed and the Delhi government struggled with resource management like Oxygen supply, Oxygen tanks, and hospital beds, even then Delhi government did not bother to use this facility as a Covid care center. No mainstream media outlet or news portal has bothered to question Delhi Govt about this negligence.

The Oxygen mess

Speaking of oxygen, the Delhi government has been claiming that there is a demand-supply imbalance. A government spokesperson said “We need 976 MT of oxygen, but it was only yesterday that we started getting more than 500 MT. On April 19 and 20, when the oxygen crisis first began to unfold in the city, Delhi used to receive only 241 to 355 MT every day”.

A comparative study will, however, show us a different picture.

Delhi receives higher per capita oxygen as compared to other states and yet it keeps cribbing about lack of adequate oxygen supply. Let us now compare the oxygen consumption in Delhi and Mumbai which have seen a similar number of cases.

While Mumbai requires only 245 MT (metric tonne), why has Delhi been demanding almost thrice that quantity for the same number of active cases? This clearly points at ineffective oxygen supply management by the Delhi government rather than a demand-supply imbalance. Deliberate hoarding or black marketing of oxygen with connivance of AAP leaders also cannot be ruled out, given the track record of the Delhi government.

Hindustan Times quotes several experts who have opined that the issue is not one of demand-supply alone and that there were several steps which the Delhi government should’ve taken to manage the crisis in a better manner. The report says:

Officials and company representatives said that the biggest problem–the lack of cryogenic tankers–became worse because Delhi started looking for tankers only from mid-April. By then, most of the tankers available with transporters in north India were booked by states such as Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana.

Delhi had no daily hospital-wise allocation plan for oxygen until a week ago. On April 22, the government decided it will start giving daily schedules of allocation to every hospital. But, it was a rudimentary plan which did not work well. It was only on April 29, when the crisis was at its peak, that the Delhi government issued an order prescribing quantities of oxygen to be used by each hospital in Delhi. This order also came after the directions of the high court.

Delhi does not have a verified central helpline number for people to meet their oxygen requirement, or get admitted to hospitals. It has not spread awareness about the phone number or addresses of the 14 oxygen cylinder refillers in the city, and most people are managing their individual demands through crowdsourcing on social media or by word of mouth.

Dr. Amit Singh, associate professor at Centre for Infectious Disease at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, said Delhi could have planned better during January-February when cases had plummeted after the third wave. Even during the fourth wave, the administration’s response to the crisis was delayed on almost all aspects — putting in curbs, going into lockdown, seeking the Centre’s help, and planning for augmentation of beds and oxygen.

It must also be pointed out that the prime minister issued cheques of over 220 Crores asking the hospitals to install their domestic oxygen production (backyard supply). 162 plants were sanctioned in different places in Bharat. In Delhi, 12-13 hospitals were made this offer which hospitals declined citing a lack of space for oxygen plants (instead commercializing the space by making more beds). The hospitals that didn’t take this offer from the PM also didn’t make arrangements to ensure enough oxygen supply.

The government made policies facilitating oxygen plants in the backyard, issued cheques, placed orders, asked plants to locate space in respective hospitals. Only 33 hospitals out of 162 accepted the offer and the Delhi Government didn’t accept even a single in 12-13 ‘big corporate hospitals making’.

As if mismanagement wasn’t enough, Kejriwal has conveniently pushed the entire responsibility on the Central Government using the judiciary as a crutch. “But our only hope is that the central government will provide Delhi with its full quota of oxygen. During this tough time, we have also received massive support from the Supreme Court and the high court. I am hopeful that in the coming days the situation will improve,” Kejriwal said.

Shouldn’t the Kejriwal-led Delhi government, which has been begging for oxygen from other states having spent crores on ads publicizing Kejriwal, be held responsible for this shocking and criminal mismanagement that has cost the lives of common Delhi citizens?

(We thank @Ranjan_zeh for his inputs from the Reddit community)

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