Oxygen, the lack of which is killing Covid patients, has become the centre of a war of words between governments unable to ramp up the supply to required levels.

Delhi has made the maximum noise, with several smaller hospitals running out of oxygen and the larger ones giving ultimatums as short as hours for the supply to run out. The central government has placed the capital of India now on its priority list but even so the war of words continues.

Delhi run by Aam Aadmi Party, and Haryana with a BJP government, have locked horns over Oxygen. Haryana health minister Anil Vij accused the Delhi government of waylaying the oxygen supplies intended for Faridabad, as these were being transported from a plant in Panipat via Delhi to Faridabad.

Sources also claimed that there was a furore between the two over the supply of oxygen to Delhi from a plant in Faridabad was hampered, and denied by the district administration of Faridabad that maintained that the supply was not being denied, just ‘regulated.’

There have also been accusations against the Congress ruled Rajasthan government for stopping oxygen supply from Bhiwadi to Gurugram in Haryana.

In addition to this there have been attempts to blame the farmers agitating against the controversial farm laws at Delhi border for disrupting the smooth transportation of oxygen from Haryana to the national capital.

The farmers while condemning such propaganda have taken to the social media in a big way conveying they have never stopped any of the emergency supplies and vehicles. Instead it was the police, they claimed, that had put up barricades and nails on the roads at the border.

Officials contacted across the states said that this was a first in memory. In normal times there is a decentralized system where the hospitals, both the state run as well as the private ones have their own system of procurement of oxygen. But in this crisis, the officials were agreed, there is need for urgent intervention to push up the oxygen supply, to ensure prices remained as per the norm, and that the quota was fixed as per the caseload of the states.

Streamlining of the oxygen has also become an issue. As pointed out by the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the national capital is getting its supply from as far as Odisha. And that Delhi should be getting all its supply during this emergency from the adjoining states to save time in transportation.

“The present situation was avoidable. The authorities did not take the coming second wave seriously. Instead the focus of the political leadership turned towards the eight phase polls in a state like West Bengal where all caution was thrown to the winds. And of course the clearance for a super spreader event like the Kumbh mela. There was no emphasis on addressing concerns like increasing hospitalization capacity or oxygen availability,” a senior health official said.

After several states wrote to the centre asking for an increase in oxygen quota, the latter has made an announcement. According to reports, Delhi’s quota has been increased from 378 metric tonnes (MT) to 480 MT, Uttar Pradesh from 751 MT to 753 MT, Punjab from 126 (MT) to 136 (MT), Haryana from 156 (MT) to 162 (MT), Maharashtra from 1646 (MT) to 1661 (MT) and Madhya Pradesh from 445 MT to 543 (MT).

However, in the state there are reports of black marketing of oxygen cylinders with certain private hospitals selling beds at a huge premium that point to the degeneration of human values in society.

In Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh while ordering a crackdown on oxygen hoarding has stated that no trader or manufacturer would be allowed to indulge in illegal hoarding of liquid medical oxygen and anybody found wanting would be dealt with sternly.

Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan has categorically said that detailed guidelines have already been issued to the industries, health and police departments to ensure strict compliance of the directions in this regard.

Singh underscored the need to ensure proper use of oxygen and prevent any hoarding.

There are reports saying that people from Delhi and other places in the National Capital Region (NCR) have been heading to places like Patiala for treatment because of availability of beds and oxygen. They have been giving the address of their local acquaintances.

Meanwhile, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has stated that the problems related to shortage of oxygen supply from Panipat plant to Haryana, Delhi and other states have been resolved.

"I have even held a detailed discussion with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on this issue," he said while disclosing that a roster has been made for filling of oxygen cylinders and then loading these cylinders in trucks from the Panipat plant.

"From now on, one truck will be loaded for Haryana and one truck each for Delhi and Punjab. This entire process at Panipat plant is being closely monitored by me," he added.

The Panipat plant has a capacity of producing 260 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen per day, out of which 140 MT is supplied to Delhi, 80 MT is supplied to Haryana and about 20 MT is for Punjab.