NEW DELHI, July 21, 2021: The Centre’s statement in Parliament that there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen specifically reported by states during the second Covid wave has evoked very strong reactions even as the BJP has strongly defended the government’s response.
Answering a question by Congress MP KC Venugopal on whether several Covid-19 patients died on roads and hospitals due to acute shortage of oxygen, minister of state for health Dr Bharati Pravin Pawar told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that no deaths due to lack of oxygen had been specifically reported by the states, Union territories.
The opposition parties criticised the junior health minister’s statement and accused the Centre of insensitivity.
The Centre’s assertion has come as a shock to many who lost their loved ones due to oxygen crisis at the peak of the second Covid wave in the country, the opposition parties said.
Delhi’s health minister Satendra Jain countered the Centre’s claim and said that there were several deaths due to lack of oxygen in the national capital.
“If no deaths occurred due to oxygen shortage, why did hospitals move high court one after another every day? Hospitals had been saying that oxygen shortage led to deaths. The media, too, flagged this issue daily,” Jain said.
Arvind Kejriwal government, in May 2021, had filed an affidavit in the Court, based on the inputs of a 4 member committee, constituted by Delhi government, which said that there were no deaths in Delhi because of oxygen shortage.
Delhi health minister lied on TV all day today. pic.twitter.com/2LfDzcSNe1
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) July 21, 2021
However, the BJP later countered the AAP government’s claim and cited an affidavit filed by the Delhi government in the high court which said there were no deaths in the national capital due to oxygen shortage.
Data on Covid deaths generated by states; Centre just collects: BJP
Defending the government’s statement, the BJP said that health is a state subject and the Centre just collects data on Covid-19 deaths, it doesn’t generate it.
“The central government’s reply was based on the figures provided by the states and the UTs. No state sent any data about patients dying due to oxygen shortage,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said defending the Centre’s reply in Parliament.
Patra accused opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi of the Congress and Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party, of doing politics on the matter, and said the states where these parties are in power have claimed that no one died there due to lack of oxygen.
‘Centre responsible for oxygen shortage’
However, Delhi’s AAP government, which struggled to cope with the extraordinary spike of cases towards the end of April, has claimed that the Centre was responsible for the oxygen crisis.
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia also blamed the Centre for the lack of data on deaths due to oxygen.
“We do not have data on deaths due to lack of oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19 as the Centre has not given nod to its panel meant to probe such fatalities,” said Sisodia.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said the Kejriwal government, by taking responsibility, tried to form a committee to audit all the deaths that happened reportedly due to oxygen shortage but the Centre “prevented” it through the LG.
Sisodia also charged the Centre with trying to “hide its fault” and alleged that its “mismanagement” and change in oxygen distribution policy after April 13 caused the shortage of oxygen in the hospitals across the country, leading to a “disaster”.
“It changed its oxygen distribution policy after April 13 which led to a total disaster. The Centre will have to take responsibility for this,” the AAP leader said.
He challenged the central government, saying if they want the reported deaths due to lack of oxygen to be investigated, then the inquiry committee constituted by the Delhi government should be allowed to do its work.
“This committee will independently investigate every death caused due to lack of oxygen and will keep the data in the public domain. But, Modi ji is afraid.
“They (Centre) are not allowing the committee to work as the truth of the insensitivity and mismanagement of the central government will come out in front of the whole nation,” Sisodia alleged.
‘Case should be filed against Centre’
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut accused the Central government of lying and demanded that a case be filed against it.
“I am speechless. What would have happened to the families of those who lost their loved ones to oxygen shortage after hearing this statement? A case should be filed against the government. They are lying,” the Shiv Sena leader said.
Mr Sanjay Rahut I am aghast at the double speak of double defaulters, Shiv Sena & Congress. Pleases provide the number of deaths in the state of Maharashtra due to Oxygen shortage to the Central govt & also to the press. Same logic applies to Delhi State which was the epicentre https://t.co/5rkgA2I6q8
— Meenakashi Lekhi (@M_Lekhi) July 21, 2021
Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope has said the state government never reported any death due to shortage of oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19.
Notably, in April this year, 22 patients died after the oxygen supply was disrupted at a Nashik hospital due to leakage in an oxygen storage plant, local officials had said.
Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have also said that there were no deaths due to oxygen shortage in their states.
(With inputs from agencies)