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Published On: Wed, Apr 21st, 2021

Human lives doesn’t matter for the government: High Court

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Oxygen-FinalNEW DELHI : Delhi’s desperate oxygen crisis resonated in the High Court today, with the judges skewering the Centre with harsh questions, demanding why it was “not waking up to reality”.
“How is the government so oblivious to the reality on ground? You can’t have people die because there is no oxygen,” the court said while hearing an appeal by the Max Group, which had flagged oxygen crisis in two of its hospitals this afternoon.

Slamming the Centre for still allowing industrial use of oxygen despite its yesterday’s order, the court said, “This is really ridiculous. You are concerned with the industries while people die… That means human lives doesn’t matter for the government,” the judges said.
Hearing a petition by the Max Hospitals, the court questioned how the government can be oblivious to the disaster unfolding every hour. “Why Centre not waking up to gravity of situation? We are shocked and dismayed hospitals running out of oxygen but steel plants running,” the high court observed.  “Responsibility squarely on Central government shoulders to ensure oxygen supply to hospitals for patients,” a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli said.
The court, in yesterday’s hearing, had said the government needs to be sensitive to the situation.  It had asked that oxygen be diverted from industries that consume it the most — like petroleum and steel — and divert it for patients. Economic interests cannot override human lives or “we are heading for disaster”, the court had said. That the situation has changed for the worse 24 hours on — with six hospitals desperate for oxygen instead of three — left the court livid.
When the Centre said it was surprised by the hospital’s petition, the judges said, “Don’t get surprised by this petition. You should know the situation… Yesterday we told you about (using) the petroleum and steel industries’ oxygen. What have you done?” When the Union health ministry said “files have started moving”, the judges shot back: “What is the outcome? We aren’t bothered about these files”.
Pointing out that the Centre has ample resources to deal with any crisis, the court said the industry has made it clear that it would be ready to help. “You have your own state-run petroleum companies. You have the Air Force. We have (given) several orders yesterday. What have you done the whole day?” the judges demanded.
The Centre’s submission that it has floated a tender for import of oxygen incensed the court, which said, “You take your own sweet time (and) people will die”. Comments “It is the Central government’s responsibility to ensure sufficient oxygen supply to hospitals. We therefore direct them to protect the fundamental right to life by whatever means. If necessary, the Central government should divert all the oxygen from industries for medical usage,” the court said.
Referring to the decision by Tata Group to supply oxygen from their steel plants for medical use, the Delhi High Court questioned what’s stopping other top industries to take similar action at such unprecedented times. “If Tatas can divert oxygen they are generating for their steel plants to medical use, why can’t others? This is height of greed,” the court said.  The court asked concerned authorities to divert oxygen from industries for medical usage wherever needed.  Responsibility squarely on Central government shoulders to ensure oxygen supply to hospitals for patients, it said.

 Earlier in the day, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, “We are producing 7,500 metric tonnes of oxygen per day of which  6,600 metric tonnes is being allocated to the states for medical purposes. “Presently, we have issued instructions that, leaving a few industries, the supply to industries will be restricted so that more and more oxygen can be made available for medical use,” he said.
(With Media Inputs).

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