Kin line up to get oxygen refill as patients gasp for breath

Will only cater to the needs of hospitals, say oxygen plant officials

Published - April 28, 2021 12:35 am IST - NEW DELHI

People queue up to refill empty oxygen cylinders at Naraina in New Delhi on Tuesday.

People queue up to refill empty oxygen cylinders at Naraina in New Delhi on Tuesday.

A helpless Shobha (32), a resident of Paharganj, was stopped by security officials outside an oxygen-filling plant in west Delhi’s Naraina on Tuesday morning. She cried and pleaded with the officials to let her go.

The guards belonging to the Delhi police and CISF, however, told her “ Madam, log kal raat se khade hain.. unka number bhi nahi aaya hai abhi [People have been standing here since last night and they’re yet to get their cylinders refilled]”.

However, seeing her cry inconsolably while carrying the heavy cylinder on her shoulder, they let her in. Shobha’s 40-year-old sister was at home gasping for breath after getting infected by the virus and she had been running around since morning looking for oxygen as there were no hospital beds available.

A few steps ahead of the barricades, a long queue of people stood with their empty oxygen cylinders for their turn to come.

Jitender Kumar, a resident of Paschim Puri, said he had been standing in the queue since 4 a.m. to get the cylinder filled for his brother-in-law because he doesn’t want to lose his third relative. “We have already lost two people to COVID-19 because we couldn’t get a bed in a hospital. I am standing here trying to save the third person,” he said.

Irritated with the situation, he said that the officials have conveyed that they will only cater to the needs of hospital. “There are no beds available in hospitals and they are saying they won’t give us oxygen tomorrow. Where will we go? There’s no value for people’s lives outside hospitals,” he asked.

Also standing in the queue was Shankar Gehlot, 65, an administrator at a Jaipur hospital, had come to Delhi to help his daughter, a resident of Pitampura as his son-in-law is infected and his oxygen dropped to 80. “I have been standing here since 7 a.m. and it’s over five hours now and I don’t know whether I’ll get oxygen or not. I am just waiting for my turn,” he said, finding it tough to breathe easy himself. The daughter was taking care of the son-in-law and there’s no other option for the senior citizen but to stand in queue, he said.

Narender and Virender, residents of Paschim Vihar, had come to get oxygen for both their parents and were in queue since 5.30 a.m. This wasn’t their first time. Virender said that on Sunday, he came at 11.30 a.m. and was only able to get the oxygen at 12.30 a.m. On Monday, they claimed to have spent nine hours to get oxygen. “Both our parents are infected and their oxygen levels are very low. We couldn’t arrange hospital facilities for them. We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Virender said.

Crying outside the plant was 25-year-old Sachin, a resident of Uttam Nagar, who had reached at 11.30 a.m. and saw no hope of getting the oxygen as people had already been waiting for hours. “I have tried five hospitals since morning. My mother’s oxygen has dropped to 40 and I don’t know what to do,” he said.

Aaj to jung jeet li [We’ve won a war today],” said Pawan from Baljeet Nagar who got oxygen at noon after standing in queue all night for his 38-year-old nephew.

At Mayapuri oxygen-filling plant, barricades and police officers welcomed people who came inquiring. Officials said that the district administration had ordered that oxygen will only be supplied to hospitals and not to individuals. On Tuesday, people were not allowed to get past the barricades.

“People come here after seeing viral messages but in reality, this plant has not been entertaining people for at least two days now. Initially, they had even given oxygen for free but people started misusing,” a police officer said.

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