DAILY FROM: AHMEDABAD, CHANDIGARH, DELHI, JAIPUR, KOLKATA, LUCKNOW, MUMBAI, NAGPUR, PUNE, VADODARA JOURNALISM OF COURAGE FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 2021, NEW DELHI, LATE CITY, 16 PAGES `6.00 (`8 BIHAR & RAIPUR, `12 SRINAGAR) WWW.INDIANEXPRESS.COM SINCE 1932 RECORD 3,14,835 NEW CASES AND 2,104 DEATHS IN LAST 24 HOURS Delhi, UP, Gujarat, Haryana oxygen demand outstrips supply; PM holds crisis meeting HomeMinistrywarnsstatesagainsthoardingoxygenorblockingitssupplychains,saysmustfollowdistributionplan OXYGEN DEMAND AND ALLOCATION IN 12 SURGE STATES Uttar Pradesh Gujarat Haryana Karnataka Rajasthan Punjab Kerala -220 -47 -25 -18 0 0 10 10 CALLS FOR ‘NATIONAL PLAN’ SC takes up Covid cases: HC hearings ‘creating confusion’ EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, APRIL 22 THE SUPREME Court Thursday took suo motu cognizance of some of the key issues related to Covid-19management,including the supply of oxygen and essentialdrugsanddeclarationoflockdowns. Noting that the matter was being heard in several high courts,"creatingsomeconfusion" and "diversion of resources", a BenchledbyChiefJusticeofIndia S A Bobde said there is “almost a national emergency” and asked the Centre to submit a “national plan” to deal with it. “We see that six High Courts are taking action. We appreciate Chhattisgarh TamilNadu 12 20 1661 NEW DELHI, APRIL 22 543 445 220 200 227 215 99 89 136 126 205 205 300 300 162 180 Delhi 1500 ■ Shortfall/Surplus(MT) 975 753 800 480 700 *MT=Metric Tonnes 1000 ■ Demand(MT)April20onwards ■ Allocation(MT)April20onwards HARIKISHAN SHARMA, DEEPTIMAN TIWARY & KAUNAIN SHERIFF M Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra 98 161 WITH FOUR of the states worst hit by Covid battling a critical shortfall between demand and supply of oxygen in their hospitals, Prime Minister Narendra Moditoldofficialsduringahighlevel meeting Thursday to ramp up production and the Union Second wave will not affect big reform push, says Sitharaman HomeMinistryorderedallstates tostrictlyabidebyitsdistribution plan amid reports of some seizing supplies meant for others. As the country reported a record 3,14,835 new cases — the highest single-day figure for any country since the pandemic began — and 2,104 deaths in the last24hours,figuresobtainedby The Indian Express show that Delhi, UP, Gujarat and Haryana face severe shortfalls (see chart) CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 April, Nov last year: Officials, House panel flagged oxygen need, shortage that. But this is creating some confusion and diversion... We want to point out four issues -supply of oxygen, supply of essential drugs, method and mannerof vaccination,declarationof lockdown. We will issue notice for a national plan on these issues," the three-judge Bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat, said, while adding that some high courts might prioritise one set of people and another, a different group. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman with P Vaidyanathan Iyer, Executive Editor (National Affairs), The Indian Express, Joseph Leahy, Asia News Editor, Financial Times. Express ENS ECONOMIC BUREAU NEW DELHI, APRIL 22 UNION FINANCE Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday said the second wave of the Covid-19pandemicwillnotaffect theinstitutionalreforms, including the disinvestment plans outlined in the Budget, although the focusrightnowwastotakesteps towardsmeetingthe“immediate requirement of saving lives”. Speaking at the first of a se- CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 COUNTRY BEING RUN BY GOD: DELHI HC BUSINESS AS USUAL PAGE 3 BY UNNY SC move follows censure of Centre, it did same with migrants last year APURVA VISHWANATH NEW DELHI, APRIL 22 NEARLY A week after at least six HighCourtsbeganhearingcases related to inadequacies in the officialdom’s response to the surging Covid pandemic and censured the Centre and state governments, the Supreme Court, on its own, suggested it would transfer these cases to itself to avoid what it called “confusion and diversion of resources.” The High Courts have issued a slew of orders and made criti- cal observations on the way the crisis is being managed by governments. OnApril16,theNagpurbench of the Bombay High Court took cognizance of lack of availability of Remdesivir in the district. It revived a public interest litigation it had taken up on its own motion in 2020 on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. On April 20, the Delhi High Court set up a special bench that began hearing cases related to Covid-19 in the national capital, especially on the shortage in CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 SRINAGAR, APRIL 22 THE JAMMU and Kashmir administration has set up a Special TaskForce(STF)toinitiateaction against government employees suspected of activities against "security of the State". The order has been passed under provisions of Article PAGE 1 ANCHOR 311(2) (C) of the Constitution that give the administration powertoterminateanemployee without constituting an inquiry against him or her on grounds of security of the State. "Sanctionis hereby accorded to the constitution of a Special task Force... for identifying and scrutinizing cases of government employees, to initiate the process under Government CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 9 and counting: UAE, Singapore shut out fliers from India PRANAV MUKUL NEW DELHI, APRIL 22 A Covid-19 patient waits to get admission at the LNJP Hospital in New Delhi on Thursday. Tashi Tobgyal EmpoweredGroupsaidshortagelikely,House panelsaidneedoxygeninventory HARIKISHAN SHARMA NEW DELHI, APRIL 22 ALMOST DROWNED by the alarmbellsringingacrossthenation over the critical shortage of oxygeninthesecondCovidwave is the fact that the warning signs came clear and early: in April one full year ago and then again in November. The first was just a week afterthenationallockdownbegan, on April 1, 2020, by one of the 11 Empowered Groups of Officers, set up bythe Centrefor planning and implementing an effective Covid response. This was the Empowered Group-VI(EG-VI)tasked tocoordinate with the “Private Sector, NGOs & International Organizations for response related activities." In its second meeting,heldonApril1lastyear, it red-flagged oxygen shortage. The minutes of the meeting STORM AFTER THE CALM TACKLING THE SECOND COVID WAVE AN EXPRESS SERIES PART FOUR said: “In the coming days India could face a shortage of oxygen supplies. To address this, CII will coordinate with Indian Gas Associationandmitigatethelack of oxygen supply.” Thismeeting, headedbyNITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant, was attended by India's Principal Scientific Adviser K. Vijay Raghavan; Secretary, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade; NDMA member Kamal Kishore; and over half a dozen officials from various wings of the CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 EXPLAINED EXPERT EXPLAINS THE PATH OUT OF THE CRISIS PAGE 11 Citing security, J&K sets up force to After HC rap over flouting of Covid norms, EC act against govt staff without probe bans large election roadshows, rallies in Bengal BASHAARAT MASOOD riesof online,agenda-settingdebates organised by The Indian Express and Financial Times, the Finance Minister said the situationin2020(whenanationwide lockdown was announced) and thesituationnowareverydifferent. “Micro containment zones would be the way forward (now),” she said. “Even that said, there are numbersandthesurgeincertain pocketsthatissosignificant—as in Delhi — we have gone in for a Order No. 738-JK(GAD) of 2020 for action in terms of provisions of Article 311(2) (C) of the Constitution of India," reads the order issued by the General Administration Department on Wednesday night. Theorderaddsthattheterms of reference of the STF would include compiling records of "employees suspected of activities CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 ical parties and candidates were “still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms” during campaigning. Permissions already given for such events stood withdrawn, the DECISION Commission said. 2021 The directive came WEST hours after Calcutta High Court censured BENGAL EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE NEW DELHI, KOLKATA, APRIL 22 THE ELECTION Commission (EC) on Thursday banned roadshows,vehiclerallies,and public meetings of more than 500 people in West Bengal, noting that polit- GOVT & POLITICS MAMATA HOLDS FOUR RALLIES, SHAH ONE; PM CANCELS PAGE 7 the EC for not doing enough to ensurethatpoliticalpartieswere following appropriate Covid-19 protocols amid the devastating second wave of infections. “We are unable to reconcile the fact that the Election Commission of India is not able to update us as to what actionby wayof enforcementof thecirculars has been obtained,” a Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee said. CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 AT LEAST nine jurisdictions — the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, France, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Hong KongandOman—haveimposed freshrestrictionsontraveltoand from India on account of the surge in Covid-19 cases. Experts watching the sector closely said India currently poses the“biggestrisk”ofexportingnew variants of the coronavirus to countries around the world, and that they expected more borders to be closed for travel from India. As of Thursday morning, India had 22,91,428 active cases of coronavirus infection, an increase of 1,33,890 cases over the previous day, according to government figures. The UAE on Thursday became the latest country to close its borders for travellers from India, after Singapore imposed a travel ban and Australia announced it will reduce the number of its citizens who would be able to return from India and other red-zone countries. According to airline sources, UAE authorities on Thursday banned all flights from India for a period of 10 days from Sunday. Thesuspensionissubjecttoareview after 10 days. In a travel advisory, Dubaibased airline Emirates said: CONTINUED ON PAGE 2 Beds, oxygen, medicines: How Chhattisgarh dropped Covid ball GARGI VERMA RAIPUR, APRIL 22 IN THE second Covid-19 wave sweeping the country, Chhattisgarh is among the worst-hit states in terms of both cases and deaths, ranking only behind Maharashtra and Delhi on days. However, data show that between the last peak of August 2020 when it was seeing around 4,000 cases daily and now, when its daily caseload is 17,000-plus, the state has added just two Covid hospitals amounting to 722 extra beds. Documents accessed by The Indian Express alsoshowthat the actual number of ventilators in the state is 497, about half the number, 937, mentioned by the state on a government portal. Of these, only 32 are in dedicated Covid hospitals, against 384 claimed by the government, apart from 23 in Covid care centres. The total number of ICU beds for Covid-19 patients in government hospitals in the state is only 477, with 1,881 ICU beds in private facilities. Chhattisgarh currently has more than 1.3 lakh active cases, with 150-plus deaths being recorded daily for almost a week now.Inthepast24hours,thestate saw16,750casesand207deaths. Whilethegovernmentisracing to increase capacity, this means extra oxygen, life-saving drugs and trained manpower, which are proving difficult to arrange. For example, while the state has two large oxygen plants, both in Bhilai, there are not enough containers to stock the gas. So even as the number of patients on oxygen support is rising, empty cylinders have to be rushed back for refilling. After the first wave, Chhattisgarhhadplannedtosetup nine liquid medical oxygen storage spaces along with 23 oxygen plants, for which work Not enough beds for symptomatic patients waiting for their test results at a Covid hospital in Jagdalpur. Express started in November last year. Five months later, none of the nine storage units is ready, while of the 23 oxygen plants that should have been completed by January 31, only 15, in districts, were ready by early April. The others will be ready only by the first week of May, sources said. "We have taken cylinders from some district plants. We have also placed orders for more cylinders and are converting industrial oxygen cylinders into medical cylinders," a Health Department official said. On the other essentials too, Chhattisgarh is lagging. Said an official, "The tenders for drugs and other paraphernalia were floated only in the second half of March. For remdesivir, we were just finishing our tenders when thedemandshotup,sothecompanies reneged, which led us to tender for it again in April." According to sources, the last procurement happened in November 2020, after which officials appointed on special duty for Covid-19 were moved out, essentially halting the procurement drive. The then health secretary, for example, went on leave from September, and a new one was appointed. The lull also saw the number of beds available in Covid care centres go down by nearly half. From 186 centres with 21,883 beds in August 2020, Chhattisgarhnumbersaredown to 101 centres and 11,442 beds. However, while in August these centresdidnothaveICUsorventilators, the centres have 23 ventilators and 46 ICU beds now, apart from about 2,000 beds with oxygen supply. In state capital Raipur, where all the 11 Covid care centres are up and running, these are being besieged by patients who can't get beds elsewhere. The result being that these centres, meant to handle mild and moderate CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
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