Oxygen Supply To NGOs, Private Societies Stopped?

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SRINAGAR: On a day when Jammu and Kashmir clocked nearly 5000 fresh Covid-19 cases, the government surprisingly asked industrial oxygen manufacturing units in Srinagar to stop supply to the voluntary organisations and private societies. This could have an impact on the management of the Covid-19 patients at their respective homes.

An uninterrupted oxygen supply to the Covid-19 patients is one key factor in helping them fight the contagion faster and better. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

“Whereas, medical oxygen as a commodity has become very precious and judicious use of the medical oxygen has become need of the hour. Whereas, several reports of black marketing of medical oxygen have reached this office which is in contravention of proper management of medical oxygen during the pandemic of Covid19,” Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Mohammad Aijaz said in an order. “Now, therefore, in view of the above and in the interest of better Healthcare of general public at large, I Mohammad Aijaz, Chairman DDMA Srinagar, in exercise of the powers vested in me under section 34 of the National Disaster Management Act 2005 and the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 do hereby declare that all oxygen manufacturing units within the jurisdiction of Srinagar shall supply oxygen refills only to the designated hospitals, clinics and will stop supply to any private society/NGO with immediate effect.”

The sudden and unexpected move by the Srinagar administration has invited both anger and scorn from public and charitable organisations, which have been at the forefront of fighting the pandemic by supplying oxygen to hundreds of patients afflicted with the fatal virus.

“Supplies to private persons, NGOs and private societies other than the private hospitals shall be made only after prior approval of the District Magistrate, Srinagar,” the order signed by Mohammad Aijaz, district magistrate, Srinagar, added.

“Any private body other than the private hospitals intending to avail oxygen supply/refill shall register their genuine demand with the nodal officer Covid Akshay Labroo on mobile/whatsapp with a communication to director, Industries, Kashmir,” the circular explained.

No sooner did the circular become public, social media users went after the government terming the decision ”unbelievable and moronic”. “Someone needs to go to court ASAP before this moronic decision costs lives,” said one user on Twitter.

The Oxygen order has come at a time when it’s a matter of life for critical patients. For a patient fall in saturation can takeover the brains much faster than the officials will check their WhatsApp. Kashmir’s low casualty figure in comparison to the huge infection rate is partly because of a better healthcare system and an impressive NGO network that works round the clock.

During the day the government said in a statement that till date, 1867856 persons have been enlisted for observation which included 91693 persons in-home quarantine including facilities operated by the government, 41666 in isolation, and 119000 in-home surveillance. Besides, 1612935 persons have completed their surveillance period.

Interestingly two major charities in Oxygen and Covid-19 management are creating two major centres at the government’s request.

Apparently not happy with the developments, SRO Kashmir, a leading NGO that has been providing oxygen to patients since the outbreak of the pandemic tweeted; “Please bear with us. Our request for the Oxygen replenishment will be submitted soon to the concerned nodal officer(s). We expect to resume the distribution of O² Support to new patients very soon. Our Toll-Free number will also be re-activated ASAP. Thank you. #OxygenKashmir.” SRO Kashmir is helping around 350 patients by providing oxygen cylinders.

Even former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah took a swipe at the government.

“Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Stopping the hoarding/black marketing of oxygen cylinders is a laudable goal. Preventing NGOs or making it tougher for them to help people get cylinders is dangerous. NGOs were working when the government was still in deep slumber.”

This reporter made many calls to Kashmir divisional commissioner P K Pole and Srinagar deputy commissioner Mohammad Aijaz. They did not respond. As and when they do, this story would be updated.

DC Aijaz Asad has put a tweet this morning. “To provide fair & equal access to oxygen supply to the most needy patients, things have been streamlined. Scuttlebutt has it as if somebody is being prevented. Not at all. In fact, proper mechanism in place will ensure regular supply in a smooth manner. Regards.”

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