As Centre and states indulge in blame-game over the current COVID surge, ex-Finance Minister P Chidambaram, on Friday, demanded Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan's resignation. Claiming that despite warnings in April 2020 (by the Empowered Group) and in Oct-Nov 2020 (by the Parliamentary Committee) the Centre took no steps to prevent COVID surge, he questioned the delay in acting. Holding the Health Minister and the Health Secretary responsible, he lamented over the rush for oxygen currently being witnessed across India.
Despite warnings in April 2020 (by the Empowered Group) and in Oct-Nov 2020 (by the Parliamentary Committee), why did the government not take the steps it is taking since yesterday?— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) April 23, 2021
Earlier in the day, AAP supremo and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal triggered a controversy by televising his remarks to PM Modi at the PM-CM meet, upsetting the Prime Minister. As per government sources, PM Modi chastened Kejriwal for breaking protocol and releasing his remarks while live in the video conference. Govt sources added, "Kejriwal has descended to a new low. For the first time, private conversations of PMs meeting with CM was televised. His entire speech was not meant for any solution but for playing politics and evade responsibility."
In the video which has upset the Centre, Kejriwal had said, "Will people of Delhi not get oxygen if there is no oxygen-producing plant here? Please suggest whom should I speak to in Central Govt when an oxygen tanker destined for Delhi is stopped in another state?" He is also seen pleading with folded hands to the PM, seeking help for facilitating oxygen from neighbouring states like UP and Haryana to Delhi.
Shortly after PM-CM meeting, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan held a high-level meeting with officials of the Health Ministry and representatives of major government-run hospitals operating as COVID-19 centres. In the meeting on Friday morning, the process of ramping up health infrastructure and increasing the number of beds in each hospital, assuming a sharp increase in daily days in the coming days, was discussed. Harsh Vardhan also listed out the steps taken by the Centre to tackle the oxygen crisis, for which the governments have also been pulled by the Delhi High Court.
On the oxygen crisis, Harsh Vardhan highlighted that the Prime Minister has been holding marathon meetings with stakeholders to ensure a sufficient supply of medical oxygen wherever required. He informed that the Central Government has set up control rooms at the highest level, headed by senior officials, to ensure that the allotted quota of medical oxygen by the Centre reaches the designated State. Delhi has been battling with acute oxygen shortage.