No panel was formed in April 2020 for oxygen management: Center

Ground Report | New Delhi: No panel was formed; The Center on Friday refused to give official records related to the management of medical oxygen by a government panel during the pandemic to a Right to Information (RTI) activist, saying no such panel was formed in April 2020.

In June this year, the government had given another reason for refusing to give the information sought to Saurav Das. Sections of the RTI Act were then cited that allow authorities to disclose information that may prejudicially affect India’s national interests.

Das had sought information from the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) of the Union Commerce Ministry regarding the dates, agenda, presentation and minutes of meetings of the Empowered Group of Officers working on the management of medical oxygen. Das had said in his question that the committee was formed in April 2020.

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According to the Union Health Ministry, the Center had constituted a group in March last year under the chairmanship of DPIIT Secretary Guruprasad Mohapatra and along with officials of other ministries to ensure the supply of essential medical equipment, including oxygen, to the states.

No panel was formed

The DPIIT on Friday said, “No such committee was constituted in April 2020 under the chairmanship of Secretary DPIIT Guruprasad Mohapatra to ensure adequate availability of medical oxygen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The information was sought, it is not available.

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Das told The Telegraph, “Whether it was made in March or in April 2020, it is irrelevant. I have asked for its official records.”

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Das from Puducherry said, “It seems like a malicious denial of information. They had earlier claimed that they cannot share information on the basis of national interest, they now claim that it does not exist.”

The Union Health Ministry on April 15 this year listed out the steps taken by the Empowered Group, stating that the Empowered Group had continuously monitored and facilitated a smooth supply of essential medical equipment, including oxygen, to the states over the past year.

The ministry had said that the activities of this group had helped in increasing the oxygen production, utilizing the existing stock, and streamlining the supply of oxygen in the states.

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