As the COVID-19 situation worsened in the J&K UT, the authorities, including LG Manoj Sinha, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to personally intervene and help them get pressure swing adsorption (PSA) oxygen generation units (OGUs) from Germany for Kashmir. 415 people have lost their lives in Kashmir due to the deadly Coronavirus between May 1 and 20. As for Jammu, 714 people lost their lives in Jammu due to this virus during the same period. Sensitive as he was, the PM intervened. The result was the arrival at Srinagar Airport of seven OGUs on May 17. These were to be installed at the Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital and Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Hospital and in Anantnag, Baramulla, Shopian and Bandipora districts”. The IAF (Indian Air Force) plane brought these oxygen plants from Germany’s Munich.
As was expected, LG Sinha thanked the PM. Bashir Ahmad Khan, Advisor to LG Manoj Sinha, also hailed the personal intervention of the PM. On May 18, he claimed that these oxygen units would meet the requirements of Kashmir. He also said: “Had PM Narendra Modi not taken a personal interest in the matter, it would have taken at least two more months for these plants to reach Srinagar. It was because of the personal intervention of the PM that these plants reached Srinagar in two days. We have already created the infrastructure for these plants. We simply have to install them and these would start generating oxygen in a few days”. Kashmir already has 34 OGPs, as against 12 in Jammu province with Srinagar district alone having at least 12 OGPs.
The PDP termed “the diversion of OGPs from Kashmir to Jammu a daylight robbery”. Kashmir Doctors’ Association also took the plunge on May 17.
However, the authorities reportedly “diverted three oxygen units from Kashmir to Jammu” to meet the immediate needs of the province. These three plants were to be installed in the “Samba, Reasi and Rajouri districts”. “These plants will be given back to Kashmir only once the allocated supply of oxygen for Jammu arrives,” a report from Kashmir also suggested.
As per the statement of Kashmir’s Chief Engineer of the Mechanical Engineering Department Abdul Rashid Dar, “as soon as the oxygen units arrive, both Jammu and Kashmir divisions push the suppliers to get their share”. “It is all about mounting the pressure, and it depends upon the supplier as far as the distribution of oxygen plants is concerned,” he also reportedly said. Dar also claimed that “out of the seven units, five are allotted to Kashmir, and two are allotted to the Jammu division…Only two plants of 1,000 LPM capacity have been diverted. Their contract had failed. We had secured our contract on time, so we are placing orders for six plants from here for Jammu for now”.
Significantly, Advisor to LG, Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, on May 19 reportedly said: “There is no question of diverting medical assets from one place to the other and the administration is commissioning more oxygen plants so as to make additional arrangements for the availability of oxygen at all places in the UT, and this is how it should be looked into. The UT administration is taking measures on war footing to ensure that the medical oxygen is available at all places in the UT and is further expanding the capacity (of oxygen supplies).
What did Kashmir’s Director of Health Dr Mushtaq say about the whole issue? He on May 19 reportedly said: “I don’t have any information regarding the diversion of oxygen units from Kashmir to Jammu. However, the valley has an adequate supply of oxygen…The Mechanical Engineering Department will be the right department to speak about it.”
Suffice it to say that the opposition in the valley to the “diversion” of two-three oxygen plants from Kashmir to Jammu has is highly disturbing and dumbfounding.
Anyway, the issue of diversion of two or three oxygen plants from Kashmir to Jammu has triggered an unfortunate and fierce controversy. The issue has virtually pit Kashmir against Jammu. Take, for example, what Chief Engineer Abdul Rashid Dar said: He reportedly said: “I have nothing to do with what Jammu is getting. My concern is I should have my plants (in Kashmir) by the first week of June. Why should I give my plants to Jammu? I don’t know under whose pressure the supplying agency delivered the plants to Jammu”.
Not just this, the PDP termed “the diversion of OGPs from Kashmir to Jammu a daylight robbery”. Kashmir Doctors’ Association also took the plunge on May 17. Its president and influenza expert Nisar ul Haasan said: “Jammu and Kashmir are part of the same region, but ‘siphoning off’ the infrastructure of one place for another was unacceptable”. In addition, “experts” on May 17 “warned that diverting medical assets from one place to another could be a riskier proposition”. They reportedly said: “Despite the need for oxygen plants in Kashmir, three of the valley’s 1,000 litres-per-minute (LPM) units have already been shifted to Jammu, while two more will be given to the division after they arrive here from Germany”.
All these facts speak for themselves and even a naïve can understand what all these facts mean, suggest and indicate. Suffice it to say that the opposition in the valley to the “diversion” of two-three oxygen plants from Kashmir to Jammu has is highly disturbing and dumbfounding. The Authorities would do well to ensure that both the regions are provided with the required infrastructure, including ventilators and beds, and OGUs. It’s pandemic and the precious lives of all have to be saved at whatever cost. At the same time, the time has come for PM Narendra Modi to separate Jammu from Kashmir and grant it the status of statehood or UT.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.