On August 28, Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister, Delhi, announced recommendations for Padma awards. He said that the committee led by Deputy CM Manish Sisodia received over 9,400 suggestions. The committee has shortlisted “the names of three doctors- Dr SK Sarin from ILBS, Dr Suresh Kumar from LNJP, and Dr Sandeep Budhiraja from Max Hospital for Padma Awards”, he said.
Controversy over names suggested by Kejriwal
The names suggested by Kejriwal have attracted criticism from the netizens as the three doctors recommended by him had pushed Aam Aadmi Party’s narrative over oxygen requirement in Delhi. On April 20, 2021, Dr SK Sarin had said, “There is an acute shortage of oxygen in Delhi. The demand is about 700 metric tonnes, but we are getting close to just 300. There is a huge gap.”
On April 24, 2021, Dr Suresh Kumar pushed the narrative further and said, “All ICU beds at our hospital are full for the last 4-5 days. Some critical patients need 40-50ltr of oxygen per minute to maintain oxygen saturation level. The oxygen supply chain is compromised.”
In June 2021, when the Interim Report on the audit of medical oxygen demand and consumption in Delhi prepared by a Supreme Court-appointed committee came to public light, it was clear that the oxygen demand might have been exaggerated by the Delhi Government.
The report pushed Dr Sandeep Budhiraja to come to the rescue of the AAP-led government. He had claimed that he and Bhupinder S Bhalla, principal secretary (home), Delhi government were not in agreement with some of the key findings of the report that had suggested that the Delhi government had “grossly overstated” the medical oxygen requirements during Covid-19 second wave.
He alleged that he had sought changes and additions in the interim draft report. Hindustan Times, in its report, stated that in a letter written by Dr Budhiraja, he had pointed out that the minutes of the May 15 meeting were not shared with the panel for approval as a result, he did not attend an important meeting on May 18.
SK Sarin is a Padma Awardee
Interestingly, one of the nominees recommended by the Delhi Government is a Padma Awardee. Dr Shiv Kumar Sarin had received Padma Bhushan Award, the third-highest civilian India award, in 2007. It is unclear for which Padma Award Kejriwal government has recommended his name.
Reaction by netizens
Several netizens raised objections over the nominations. Nayan said, “Remember Oxygen shortage propaganda? Some hospitals and doctors helped Arvind Kejriwal and gang to peddle this narrative then backtracked in the court the time asked to file it on affidavit. same team.”
Remember Oxygen shortage propaganda ? Some hospitals and doctors helped @ArvindKejriwal and gang to peddle this narrative then backtracked in the court the time asked to file it on affidavit..— : NayaN : (@nayanchandra) August 29, 2021
same team .. @mansukhmandviya https://t.co/5wjnmBU9GQ
Kartikay shared how three doctors favoured the AAP government during the Covid-19 wave and helped in setting up the narrative that there was a shortage of oxygen in Delhi.
The names he recommends for Padma Awards.— Kartikeya Tanna (@KartikeyaTanna) August 29, 2021
The names which made news in April-May.
Just leaving it here without any comment. pic.twitter.com/JyVxpOXeUn
BeFittingFacts pointed out Dr Sarin has already awarded with Padma Bhushan.
Kejriwal sent the name of Dr. S K Saring for Padma Awards, he already had received one. All media published Kejriwal’s claim but no one mentioned it. 🤷🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/OcCfl53Ozq— Facts (@BefittingFacts) August 29, 2021
Delhi Government’s mismanagement during the second wave of Covid-19
Notably, Kejriwal’s government came under the scanner during and after the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic over the alleged mismanagement of medical oxygen. It was also alleged that the Delhi government did not take proactive steps to get the oxygen supply in order and fix the crisis. Rather, Kejriwal and his team spent time issuing statements against the union government and neighbouring states.
During a hearing in Delhi High Court, it was revealed that even after a month the second wave had started, the Arvind Kejriwal government had not arranged a single tanker to transport medical oxygen allocated by the centre. The hospitals in Delhi were being supplied by the suppliers like Inox using their own tankers, but additional tankers were needed to collect oxygen allocated from other plants in nearby states, which was the responsibility of the state govt. The Delhi High court had slammed the Delhi government for the mismanagement in April.
When Indian Railways started the Oxygen Express initiative, several states, including Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, sent requests for the trains immediately, but the Kejriwal-led Delhi government sat idle for over a week. His government also failed to arrange a storage facility for the extra oxygen required by the state hospitals. As a result, tankers were left stranded for hours, waiting for authorities to get them emptied so that they could head back to the oxygen plants. Additionally, due to the lack of oxygen storage facility, Delhi lifted lesser oxygen than required.
The allocation of oxygen was mismanaged to a level that the suppliers had to approach Delhi High Court to know to which hospitals they should supply. Reportedly, some hospitals were not even on the lists, depriving them of oxygen as suppliers were to distribute oxygen only to those hospitals which had been allocated to them. All the mismanagement created by the Delhi government gave an opportunity to the black marketers. Allegedly Delhi government did not take enough steps to curb the black marketing of medical oxygen and other essential life-saving drugs or equipment. Delhi High Court had slammed the Delhi government for failing to curb black marketing.