Modi rejects proposal to import oxygen from Pakistan

Chandigarh, May 11 (KMS): Indian Punjab’s Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has disclosed that the Modi-led government in New Delhi rejected the province’s request to import liquid medical oxygen from Pakistan as the country faces a dire shortage amid record coronavirus cases and deaths, it emerged on Monday.

Singh had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah last week, asking them to “immediately allocate” an additional 50 metric tonnes of oxygen as well as 20 tankers to transport oxygen from Bokaro to the province. In a press release issued last week, the Indian Punjab government had said that despite the increasing caseload, the chief minister could not increase the number of level two and level three beds because of constraints hampering oxygen availability. The province was not getting its allocated quota of oxygen, the release said.

“[Singh] pointed out that the Government of India had expressed its inability to even allow Punjab’s local industry to undertake commercial import of oxygen from Pakistan through the Wagah-Attari border, which is geographically proximate,” it said. “Despite assurance that adequate supply would be ensured to us from alternate sources, I regret to point out that this has not happened,” the release quoted Singh as saying.

Indian publication The Wire said that the Ministry of External Affairs did not comment on the Punjab government’s claim that its request for importing oxygen from Pakistan was denied. Punjab state leaders had been pushing for an “oxygen corridor” from Pakistan as the graph of new Covid-19 cases rose from early April, the publication added.

Last week, chief of the Congress party in Punjab, Sunil Jakhar, had told The Indian Express that the “Centre was coming in the way” of importing oxygen from Pakistan. He had said that the province would pay for the oxygen on its own if it was allowed to import it, terming it an “[emergency] need to save the people of the state”. — Courtesy Daily Times

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