Jalandhar: Alarmed over the ongoing shortage of medical oxygen in the wake of the deadly COVID-19 second wave in the country, Amritsar Member Parliament (MP) and Congress leader Gurjeet Singh Aujla on Monday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a special ‘oxygen corridor’ from Pakistan.
The Amritsar MP’s letter came following Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer to help India in tackling the steep increase in COVID-19 cases, especially in the national capital Delhi.
As a gesture of solidarity, the Pakistan government has offered ventilators and medical equipment to India. However, the Indian government was yet to respond to these offers.
In his letter, Aujla wrote that India’s hospitals are facing an alarmingly high shortage of liquid oxygen, ventilators, BiPAPs, oxygenators, PPE etc. due to the spike in COVID-19 cases. “In response to this emergency our neighbouring countries have offered help which should be welcomed with open arms. The government of Pakistan and Edhi Foundation, Karachi has offered to provide relief support to India to help us fight this deadly wave of Covid-19,” he wrote.
The letter read: “I represent the holy city of Amritsar, which is located on Indo-Pak international border; around 350 kms from Panipat in Haryana (nearest oxygen plant) and just 50 kms from Lahore, Pakistan. The daily requirement of oxygen in government and private hospitals in Amritsar is around 30 tons whereas the allocated quota for Punjab is too less and that too is in feeble supply. Amritsar is presently receiving oxygen supply from Panipat in truck-tankers which is not a reliable system of uninterrupted supply as there are not enough and spare truck-tankers available to cover for breakdowns.”
Talking to The Wire, Aujla said that the oxygen reserves at Amritsar have already been exhausted and they were at the mercy of unreliable chain tankers. “Last week, six patients, out of whom five were COVID-19 positive, died because of the lack of oxygen at Amritsar’s NeelKanth Hospital. Had we got enough oxygen supply, those precious lives could have been saved. Given the present state and forthcoming spike in this wave, I have written to PM Modi to accept all the help needed from our neighbours, especially Pakistan, which is around 50 km away and just a one-hour journey from Lahore to Amritsar via the Indo-Pak border. A special ‘oxygen corridor’ should be set up to ensure regular and timely oxygen supply for patients,” he said.
Aujla said that he was aware of the political and diplomatic state of affairs but at such times of crisis, all nations must join hands and share resources to defeat this common enemy.
“If India can offer vaccines to Pakistan, then why not make arrangements for the purchase and transportation of oxygen from Pakistan via the Attari Wagah border post. I have also mentioned the Karachi-based Edhi Foundation, which has offered ambulances to India. If we can accept help from the US, UK, Dubai and other far-off countries, then why not from Pakistan too, which is just next to the bordering state to Punjab. Who knows, it might also improve our relations with Pakistan,” he added.
Expressing concern over the current crisis in allocating oxygen to all states in the country, the MP said that the supply of imported oxygen from Pakistan can cater to Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Tarn Taran and other districts of Punjab in a much faster manner than our present system. “I am yet to get any response from the Centre but I will take up the matter with the government again. I have also sought time for a virtual meeting with the prime minister, as all our only concern is timely assistance to our people in distress. And if our demand is not met, we will hold an agitation against the Central government,” he said.
On April 23, Pakistan’s noted human rights activist Faisal Edhi, managing trustee of the Edhi Foundation from Karachi, Pakistan also wrote a letter to Modi extending help with 50 fleet ambulances from his organisation. Edhi has also offered medical assistance in addressing the current health conditions in the country.
In Edhi’s letter, which went viral on Twitter, he wrote: “Our organisation understands the gravity of the situation and we wish to lend you our full support, without any inconvenience to you, which is why we will arrange all the necessary supplies that our team needs to assist the people of India. Importantly, we are not requesting any other assistance from you, as we are providing fuel, food and other necessary amenities that our team will require. Our team consists of emergency medical technicians, office, staff, drivers and supporting staff.”
Founded by Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1951, the Edhi Foundation sought permission to enter India as well as any necessary guidance from the local administration and police department. A copy of the letter was also forwarded to the Indian ambassador in Pakistan.
People from Pakistan were seen expressing solidarity with India on social media while Indians too urged the Modi government to accept help in such extraordinary circumstances. The hashtag ‘Pakistan supports India’ remained the top trend on twitter after many good Samaritans and local people prayed for the well-being of Indians.