Two Karnataka IAS officers spar over 24 oxygen shortage deaths in Chamarajanagar

Twenty four COVID-19 patients died in Chamarajanagar after alleged fluctuating oxygen supply.
A collage of Deputy Commissioners of Mysuru and Chamarajanagar
A collage of Deputy Commissioners of Mysuru and Chamarajanagar
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A day after 24 COVID-19 patients died in Karnataka's Chamarajanagar district, allegedly due to fluctuating oxygen supply, the incident has turned into a full-blown blame game between the Deputy Commissioners of Chamarajanagar and Mysuru. Chamarajanagar Deputy Commissioner, MR Ravi squarely blamed his Mysuru counterpart Rohini Sindhuri for the deaths due to "enormous delay in supply" of the life-saving gas.

Ravi hit out at Sindhuri following her media statement released in Mysuru on Monday stating that "she helped Chamarajanagar under humanitarian considerations by sending 250 cylinders at midnight.” Ravi told reporters that she was misleading people by issuing such statements. “I have been raising this issue at various levels ever since the problem of our supplies started about 10 days ago. The very first day when we encountered our supplies were hampered, I immediately informed our Chief Secretary (P Ravi Kumar) first, then district in-charge minister (S Suresh Kumar), chief nodal officer for oxygen supply, (ADGP Pratap Reddy), so on and so forth. Finally, when I could not find solutions, I did not hesitate to raise it in front of the Chief Minister (BS Yediyurappa) three days ago when he had convened a meeting with all officers.”

"There, I had even cautioned that danger is lurking if the supply chain is not restored properly, due to interference of the Mysuru DC. In this meeting held three days ago, the CM and the CS had instructed her not to interfere with supplies of Chamarajanagar, Mandya, and Kodagu districts. Despite these instructions, she continued to interfere and finally, our district paid the price," he claimed.

Ravi alleged that oxygen suppliers in Mysuru used to request them to take permission from the Mysuru Deputy Commissioner, "which became a routine affair and only if some of us called her, the oxygen used to be released...that too, a bare minimum quantity.”

"For instance, if we wanted 100 cylinders, we used to get 10 cylinders. Who gave her permission to ration our requirements? If she claims that she has maintained a record, then our district has also maintained records," he said.

Ravi noted that the day before the tragic incident happened, vehicles from Chamarajanagar were waiting for more than 24 hours in front of the oxygen plant. "If our quota of oxygen was loaded in these vehicles, then we could certainly make a serious attempt to save three people that died between 12 midnight and 3 am, and seven lives thereafter," he said.

The Chamarajanagar Deputy Commissioner has reacted to the allegations by releasing a press note to the media. Meanwhile, Mysuru DC Sindhuri said in her statement that the matter is under inquiry as per orders of the state government.

“The matter is under inquiry as per orders of the state government; however, Chamarajanagar Deputy Commissioner, without waiting for the inquiry to be completed, continues to make false allegations against Deputy Commissioner Mysuru in the media,” she said.

Sindhuri also stated in the release that she did not ration or control oxygen supplies to Chamarajanagar or any other district. She also mentioned that a Deputy Commissioner has no role or authority in the oxygen supplies to a district.

“The oxygen supplies to a district are entirely between the supplier/re-filler and the district. Another Deputy Commissioner has no role or authority in the same. For example, Mysuru oxygen supplies are from Ballari. If the supplier from Ballari supplies less, I cannot blame Deputy Commissioner Ballari. It is the responsibility of the district to manage its own oxygen supplies. If any supplier does not supply or district needs are not met then supervision and correction is by the State level officers. The DC Chamarajanagar should have coordinated with these State Level officers and got his supplies. He failed to do that and is now blaming DC Mysuru,” said the release.

Sindhuri also mentioned that all these facts would be proved in the inquiry that has already been ordered by the state government.

(With IANS inputs)

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