A couple of foreign embassies’ SOS to the Congress for oxygen set off a war of words on social media between the party’s former Union minister Jairam Ramesh and the BJP’s foreign minister S Jaishankar. Since last evening, the Congress has supplied oxygen to critical patients in two foreign embassies — New Zealand and Philippines. The Youth Congress, which had delivered the oxygen cylinders, had tweeted the videos of the delivery as well as the appeal by the New Zealand High Commission.
This morning, Mr Ramesh took a dig at the foreign minister. “While I thank @IYC for its stellar efforts, as an Indian citizen I’m stunned that the youth wing of the opposition party is attending to SOS calls from foreign embassies. Is the MEA sleeping @DrSJaishankar?”
“Jairamji, MEA never sleeps; our people know across the world. MEA also never fakes; we know who does”,” Mr Jaishankar shot back.
A follow-up tweet read: “MEA checked with the Philippines Embassy. This was an unsolicited supply as they had no Covid cases. Clearly for cheap publicity by you know who. Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling.”
MEA checked with the Philippines Embassy. This was an unsolicited supply as they had no Covid cases. Clearly for cheap publicity by you know who. Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling. @Jairam_Rameshhttps://t.co/G3jPE3c0nR
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) May 2, 2021
The Youth Congress soon tweeted their exchange with the Philippines embassy.
The accompanying post read: “We got a request for an urgent requirement of Oxygen Cylinders for 2 Covid patients in Philippines Embassy. The Cylinders were delivered at the embassy on a much solicited request. Post delivery embassy thanked us on Facebook. All screenshots attached with names and number masked.”
We got a request for an urgent requirement of Oxygen Cylinders for 2 Covid patients in Philippines Embassy
The Cylinders were delivered at the embassy on a much solicited request
Post delivery embassy thanked us on Facebook. All screenshots attached with names and number masked pic.twitter.com/0sZb5ihnFG
— Youth Congress (@IYC) May 2, 2021
The government has been sensitive to criticism from home and abroad that has been coming its way since the oxygen crisis erupted. Articles have appeared in many foreign publications, accusing it of mishandling the crisis. The government has responded with rejoinders and social media posts.
Today, in response to queries regarding medical requirements of foreign high commissions and embassies, the foreign ministry said, “The Chief of Protocol and Heads of Divisions are in continuous touch with all High Commissions/Embassies and MEA is responding to their medical demands, especially those related to Covid. This includes facilitating their hospital treatment”.
“Given the pandemic situation, all are urged not to hoard essential supplies, including oxygen,” a spokesman said.
The New Zealand High Commission landed in controversy after its appeal and deleted its tweet to the Youth Congress. Amid speculation that it was pressured by the government to do so, the Commission tweeted: “We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry.”
The BJP-Congress battle is an extension of the bitter war over the crippling oxygen crisis in the national capital that has been on for more than a week.
In at least two hospitals, critical patients have died as the hospitals failed to receive timely supplies.
Even this morning, SOS messages have come from several hospitals — including one that exclusively treats children.