As India grapples with the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, with the supply of oxygen proving to be crucial in the fight against the pandemic, the Mumbai BMC commissioner made no bones about who is to be held responsible for the oxygen scarcity witnessed in some parts of the country. In an interview with the Indian Express, BMC chief Iqbal Singh Chahal said the government of India can’t be held responsible for the oxygen crisis in the country. He said states are to be blamed for the inadequate allocation of oxygen to them.
“The Government of India should not be blamed at all. If anybody has to be blamed, it is the states,” said Chahal, adding, “many states of India were not even ready to admit how many cases they have. How does Centre allocate to them?”
Chahal argued that how could the centre allocate the same amount of oxygen to states with a vast difference in the number of COVID-19 cases reported. He averred that the Centre could not allocate the same amount of oxygen to a state with 6,000 daily cases vis-a-vis Maharashtra, which was reporting upwards of 60,000 daily new cases.
Essentially, he said that if the states tested properly, the number of COVID-19 cases would be much higher and therefore, the centre would allocate oxygen accordingly. But if they don’t test properly and report lower cases, then their oxygen allocation will be according to the number of cases they are reporting to the centre and therefore, they can’t blame the centre later if the oxygen allocation is less compared to what they actually need.
Chahal’s admission on states being responsible for the oxygen crisis comes in sharp contrast to protestations raised by Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, who had earlier last month railed against the central government over the oxygen scarcity in the state. Following his gimmicks on oxygen, union minister Piyush Goyal took to Twitter and posted a string of tweets exposing the Maharashtra government’s propaganda on the oxygen supply.
Hospitals being pressurised to increase bed capacity spawned the oxygen shortages in big cities: BMC chief
On being asked what could be the reason behind the sustained oxygen crisis in Delhi, Chahal pointed out that in many big cities, including Mumbai and Delhi, when the COVID caseloads increase, hospitals are pressurised to increase their bed capacity. However, what is ignored is that oxygen supply to the hospitals is limited and therefore many SOS calls emerge from such facilities where more beds are put up but oxygen supply and other key drugs are not commensurate, he said. In such a situation when cases are rising sharply, Chahal asserted, beds should be increased at jumbo COVID facility centres where the oxygen supply could be expanded and not at the hospitals.
BMC chief bats centre’s decision of not imposing a nationwide lockdown to combat the resurgent coronavirus outbreak
Chahal also seemed to agree with the central government’s decision of not imposing a blanket lockdown across the country. He contended why should a state with a significantly lower positivity rate bear the brunt of a nationwide lockdown. He also lauded the centre’s decision to decentralise and accord greater power to the local governments to tackle the resurgent wave of the coronavirus outbreak.
“I am a very firm believer of decentralisation… If Mumbai achieves a 6-7% positivity rate, then why should it suffer a national lockdown? Lockdown has to be left to states… A decentralised lockdown, varying from state to state, would be a better option,” he said.
BMC chief claims he is prepared for the third and fourth wave of the pandemic
Once bitten, twice shy, the BMC chief said that they are prepared for the third and the fourth wave of the pandemic after the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak took a devastating toll on the financial capital of the country, both in terms of the number of deaths and the economic hardships caused by the temporary lockdown.
“I have no doubt in my mind that a third wave is going to hit us sometime in June and July, maybe later. We are already preparing for that. That’s why we started building four brand new jumbos in Mumbai 15 days ago. It will take our dashboard from 22,000 beds to more than 30,000 in a month’s time. Our ICU beds have been ramped up from 1,500 to almost 3,000. We are trying to bring that up to 4,000 by June,” he said.