The Indian Youth Congress on Sunday showed up at the New Zealand High Commission building in Delhi with oxygen cylinders after the embassy sought its help. The embassy had tweeted, asking the youth outfit for assistance, but deleted it soon afterwards.

Following this, the embassy said that their appeal was misinterpreted and apologised for it. However, members of the Youth Congress reached the embassy with oxygen cylinders and requested it open the doors to “save a soul on time”.

Screenshot of the deleted tweet posted by the New Zealand High Commission

After a while, the High Commission accepted help from the Youth Congress and thanked the organisation as the health condition of a patient inside the embassy was critical.

Philippines Embassy

The New Zealand High Commission’s appeal for help came after the members of the SOSIYC, a relief campaign run by the Indian Youth Congress for the Covid-19 pandemic, provided oxygen cylinders to the Embassy of the Philippines.

On Saturday, Srinivas had posted a video from inside the embassy headquarters in Delhi in which his volunteers can be seen explaining a man, purportedly a security guard, how to use the oxygen cylinders they had brought with them.

The Ministry of External Affairs, however, said the Youth Congress workers had made “an unsolicited supply” to gain “cheap publicity”.

Foreign Minister Jaishankar said the ministry had checked with the Philippines Embassy and confirmed they had no Covid patients. “Giving away cylinders like this when there are people in desperate need of oxygen is simply appalling,” he wrote on Twitter.

Jaishankar’s statements came in response to a tweet by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh who said he was stunned to see the youth wing of his party, and not the government, was attending to SOS calls from foreign embassies. “Is the MEA sleeping?” he wrote, tagging Jaishankar.

Moments after Jaishankar’s tweet, the Indian Youth Congress responded to his allegations, sharing purported screenshots of the messages it had received from the embassy officials, seeking help.

“We got a request for an urgent requirement of oxygen cylinders for two Covid patients in Philippines Embassy,” the organisation wrote, attaching screenshots of the purported conversations, with names and numbers masked. “The cylinders were delivered at the embassy on a much solicited request.”

Oxygen crisis

Amid an unprecedented surge in cases in India, the country’s healthcare infrastructure is under severe strain. There is a shortage of medicines, coronavirus vaccines and oxygen especially. India has reported more than 3 lakh daily cases for over 10 days.

To help citizens suffering, various organisations and the civil society are providing necessary assistance in terms of medicines and oxygen. The SOSIYC is one such body.

Talking to Outlook, Srinivas BV, the president of the Indian Youth Congress, had said in April that over the past three weeks, the organisation received more than 40,000 requests and enquiries about hospital beds, oxygen, antiviral drug remdesivir and plasma. “Through our IYC [Indian Youth Congress] workers and others who volunteered to join our Covid relief efforts, we have been able to help out almost every single one of these people,” Srinivas told Outlook.

Srinivas said that on March 7, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had cautioned the youth organisation about the possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and told the members to be prepared to help people. “During the first Covid wave, when India witnessed an unprecedented reverse migration crisis, the IYC had set up relief camps across the country to help migrants,” he told the weekly magazine. “We provided free transport, food packets, masks and other help. Those efforts helped us attract more volunteers and so we were even more prepared this time.”

Meanwhile, India on Sunday recorded 3,92,488 new coronavirus cases, taking the overall infection count in the country to 1,95,57,457 since the pandemic first broke out in January last year. The daily surge in cases is slightly lower than that of Saturday’s when India reported over 4 lakh cases for the first time. The toll climbed by 3,689 to 2,15,542.

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