Amritsar, India – In the wake of a severe shortage of medical oxygen, the Punjab government has approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to devise a “oxygen delivery system” with Pakistan, India’s neighbors living within the 550km (342 miles) border and northwest of the country.
There are at least eight petitions made by Punjab Prime Minister Amarinder Singh and other government politicians asking Modi to take air from Pakistan, whose city of Lahore is 50km (31 miles) from Amritsar.
The search for gas from Pakistan came after Prime Minister Imran Khan delivered aid to India on April 25. Prominent Pakistani donors have also pledged to send medical aid in the event of COVID-19 cases in the country.
However, the Modi Hindu government of Modi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has refused to ask for help from the “enemy country”, amid a second wave of coronavirus that kills thousands of people every day.
“This refusal is dangerous for patients in Punjab who do not know which air they are going to rest on,” Amritsar counselor Gurjit Singh Aujla told Al Jazeera.
Aujla was the first to write to Modi on April 26 looking for a unique way to make gas with Pakistan since it was so close. When he did not hear anything from the Prime Minister, he wrote again on April 27, followed by other letters on May 2 and May 5.
Meanwhile, Singh also released his letter on May 4, stating that the site rejected his idea of allowing an industrial group in Punjab to import air from Pakistan through the Wagah-Attari border near Amritsar.
More than 10 days after the council’s refusal, the power outage in Punjab cannot be reversed.
Last week, at least three hospitals in Amritsar issued a shocking SOS response, saying their oxygen supply had run out. Circuit overseers organized the lifesaving gas from nearby areas.
A government official who is aware of the problem, and asked not to be named, said he had lost most of the SOS messages that hospitals had released in the past few days. “Every day, for a few hours, there is an SOS call to another hospital,” he told Al Jazeera.
From 3,003 coronavirus patients in Punjab on April 13 to 6,947 patients on May 17, there has been a doubling of the number of cases in the state in one month.
As of Monday, there were 73,616 cases in Punjab, which is set to exceed 100,000 by next week.
According to government data, at least 25-30% of patients need oxygen supplementation on a regular basis. The Indian Ministry of Health estimates that a potent COVID-19 patient needs between 10-60 liters of oxygen per minute.
On April 24, six patients lost their lives at Amritsar’s Neelkanth hospital after the hospital ran out of air, hospital chief Sunil Devgan told Al Jazeera.
“On April 23, our hospital was short of air. From 20 cylinders a day, our drinks went up to 100 cylinders as a result of the plague. On the night of April 23, we continued to lose patients for about half an hour, ”he said.
Of the six people who died that night in the hospital due to lack of oxygen, five were receiving COVID-19 treatment.
“Although there were many SOS calls, no one helped us. Even here, after so many days, we struggle to find oxygen on time. “Following the advice from Punjab, we do not accept COVID-19 patients now,” Devgan said.
Daily air consumption in Punjab on April 30 was 203.8 tons metric (MT). On May 7, it reached 250.6 MT, an increase of about 50 MT in less than a week. On May 17, it jumped to 304 MT.
However, the amount of Punjab gas was increased by the government to 247 MT on May 11, after the government volunteered for two weeks at least 300 MT of daily food.
With oxygen supplied to 247 MT, about 70 MT comes from a plant in Bokaro, a city east of Jharkhand more than 1,750 km (1,088 miles). Hospitals in Punjab say that oxygen from Bokaro arrives on time.
As of May 7, a decrease of 211 MT emissions from other plants in the country and due to other challenges, officials said Punjab’s daily needs were more than those reached by the state on a daily basis.
Amidst the difficulties in accessing air from Jharkhand, Singh on May 10 also urged Modi to increase the total amount of greenhouse gases in the nearby Punjab provinces.
“Why are we expecting air from Bokaro, about 1,758 miles away to get air from Lahore just 50 miles away?” Aujla told Al Jazeera.
Parliament said the two countries could work together to exchange exchanges.
“At a time when crime is on the rise in Pakistan, the means of sharing this through the Wagah-Attari border can benefit both countries,” he said.
“India is already receiving aid from China and other Muslim countries. If I am ashamed to get help from so-called enemy, then we can pay Pakistan or exchange sugar or wheat as an exchange.
“If we can vaccinate Pakistan, why not take a breath from them? Who knows it can improve our relations with Pakistan,” he said.
Relations between the two countries have existed since the Indian subcontinent gained independence from British rule in 1947 and split through a bloody bloc to make more Muslims in Pakistan.
Two nuclear-armed states have fought two of the three largest wars in the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which they say are sufficient but have control over other areas, and conflicts between them culminated in 2019 when India deprived Kashmir of its privileges.
However, in a strained relationship in their allies earlier this year, the two countries reaffirmed their commitment to the 2003 ceasefire on their borders in Kashmir. This was followed by an exchange of letters between Modi and Khan, in which the two leaders emphasized the importance of dialogue and cooperation.
In addition to writing to Modi, Aujla also sent several letters to the Ministry of Health Harsh Vardhan. He also addressed the Foreign Ministry under the leadership of Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on April 29 and the Speaker of Parliament Om Birla. He just said Birla only answered him.
When asked by Al Jazeera to comment on the matter, the Indian Foreign Ministry denied that there had been any correspondence with Punjab regarding the importation of air from Pakistan. Vardhan and other secretaries of the ministry of medicine also did not respond to questions sent by Al Jazeera.
BJP spokesman Vijay Chauthaiwale said he could not comment on the matter because it was about relations between India and Pakistan.
Aujla is worried. “The situation in Punjab is more dangerous than word of mouth. Disaster is yet to come,” he told Al Jazeera.