The Jammu and Kashmir government on Friday issued an order directing all oxygen manufacturing units within the jurisdiction of district Srinagar to stop the supply to any Non-Government Organisation (NGO) and to any private society with immediate effect.
The order further said that oxygen supplies to private persons, societies, and NGOs would be facilitated only with prior approval of the district magistrate.
The order comes at a time when a number of non-government organizations are providing oxygen cylinders to homebound Covid-19 patients in large numbers in Srinagar and other places. The order is going to make the intervention of the NGOs, which have been helping patients since last year, difficult.
“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,” former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
The NGOs like Social Reforms Organization (SRO), Athrout Kashmir and others have been reaching out to people for the past year providing them oxygen concentrators and oxygen cylinders.
An official of the SRO Kashmir said the government has now brought some relaxation in the order and instead of daily sanction for refills, the government is going to give seven-day permission to refill.
Other NGOs say the bureaucratic system to seek sanction for the refilling of oxygen cylinders makes the present system, which is running smoothly, cumbersome.
At present various NGOs, both small and big, have provided scores of oxygen cylinders and oxygen concentrators to Covid patients, who are being treated in their respective homes. The NGOs are getting hundreds of calls every day for oxygen and the sanction from the government, they say, would make it difficult to reach out to people.
The district magistrate Srinagar Aijaz Asad defends the order and says an impression is being created that the administration is preventing NGOs, private bodies, and individuals from oxygen refilling. “The claim is misleading. The administration has in fact streamlined the process to enable faster delivery to most needy patients. All applications received today stand approved,” he says.
“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,” Asad tweets.
The government has issued the order at a time when hospitals are complaining that their bed strength is dwindling with every passing day due to patient load. Srinagar has the highest number of deaths and the highest number of Covid positive cases in Jammu and Kashmir.