Congress, govt spar over foreign missions’ oxygen SOS to IYC

A war of words erupted between the government and Congress on Sunday involving two foreign missions in Delhi over supply of oxygen cylinders by the Youth Congress to these embassies for Covid patients.

The Youth Congress said they supplied oxygen cylinders to the New Zealand and Philippines missions after they received requests from these embassies.

The controversy erupted after Youth Congress volunteers supplied oxygen cylinders to the Philippines mission on Saturday night.

Indian Youth Congress president B V Srinivas told The Indian Express that one of his volunteers – Manu Dixit – received a call from someone on behalf of the Philippines embassy for cylinders and they supplied it.

When contacted, Dixit said “I got a call from someone related to the Philippines Embassy from Mumbai last night, saying the embassy in Delhi needed cylinders immediately. I asked that person to share the contacts. They shared the name. It was Tomes Valerio. We reached out to him. He said there are two patients in the Embassy who need oxygen. They requested for ten small cylinders. We did not have small cylinders. We arranged for two jumbo cylinders…”

“We went to the Embassy with the cylinders…they accepted the cylinders…we explained the process of operating the cylinders….,” he told The Indian Express.

After Srinivas tweeted visuals of Youth Congress workers at the Philippines Embassy with cylinders, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted “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?”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s retort came Sunday. “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. Jairamji, MEA never sleeps; our people know across the world. MEA also never fakes; we know who does.”

The Youth Congress said it was disappointing that the External Affairs Minister put out such a tweet saying it had indulged in unsolicited supply of cylinders. “We are not delivery boys…that we got a delivery order and we entered the Embassy. We got a request and we helped…we are not doing politics here,” Manu said.

Adding to the political controversy was a tweet by the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi requesting help from Srinivas and the Youth Congress for an oxygen cylinder.

“Right away. Please share further details in DM,” Srinivas responded.

When Youth Congress workers reached the Embassy with cylinders after which Srinivas tweeted “We have reached New Zealand High Commission with oxygen cylinders. Please open the gates and save a soul on time.”

The New Zealand mission, meanwhile, deleted the tweet and put out another tweet: “We are trying all sources to arrange for oxygen cylinders urgently and our appeal has unfortunately been misinterpreted, for which we are sorry.”

Srinivas later put out a video clip of Youth Congress workers entering the High Commission with a cylinder with a tweet “New Zealand high commission opened gates of the embassy and accepted cylinders. Also, they thanked the #SOSIYC team for this quick relief as the patient inside the embassy was critically ill.”

“It is not time for politics. If we get a request…we are trying to arrange and give…,” he told The Indian Express.

In response to queries regarding medical requirements of Foreign High Commissions/Embassies in India, the Official Spokesperson 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.”

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