NEW DELHI: The Centre recently told parliamentarians in Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to oxygen shortage were reported by states and UTs during the second COVID-19 wave. Speaking in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Health Bharti Pravin Pawar had categorically said that no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states and UTs during the second wave of COVID-19.
In a written reply in Rajya Sabha, the Minister said that health is a state subject and states and UTs regularly report the number of cases and deaths to the Centre. “Detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by the Union Health Ministry to all states and UTs. Accordingly, all states and UTs report cases and deaths to the Union Health Ministry on a regular basis. However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states and UTs,” Pawar said.
The Minister, however, admitted that there was an unprecedented surge in demand for medical oxygen during the second wave and it peaked at nearly 9,000 MT compared to 3,095 MT in the first wave following which the Centre had to step in to facilitate equitable distribution among the states.
However, Centre’s ‘no death due to oxygen shortage’ remark has now snowballed into a big political controversy.
Here’s all that has happened so far over the issue
1. AICC General Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP KC Venugopal accused MoS Health of having “misled” the house and said that he will move a privilege motion against the minister.
2. Opposition parties stepped up the attack on the Centre over its statement that no deaths due to oxygen shortage were reported by states and UTs during the second COVID-19 wave. They alleged that the Centre was trying to hide its mistakes by “lying” and misleading the nation. The ruling BJP accused the opposition of doing politics on the issue and pointed out their own governments in states did not report such fatalities.
3. Amid the row, Maharashtra, where the Congress, Shiv Sena and the NCP are in power, and BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat maintained that there were no deaths due to oxygen shortage in these states.
4. Delhi’s Health Minister and AAP leader Satyendar Jain said there have been many such fatalities in the national capital and other places across the country. “It is completely false and wrong to say that no one died due to oxygen shortage… The Centre is rubbing salt into the wounds of those who have lost their loved ones. Tomorrow, they will say there have been no deaths due to COVID-19,” Jain said. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia also charged the Centre with trying to “hide its faults” 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”.
5. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also alleged that the fatalities happened because the government increased oxygen exports in the pandemic year and did not arrange tankers to transport it. “‘No death due to lack of oxygen’: Central Government. The deaths happened because — in the pandemic year, the government increased oxygen exports by about 700 percent,” she tweeted.
6. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said people whose relatives died due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic should “take the Union government to court”. “Many people have died due to oxygen shortage in several states. Those whose relatives (COVID-19 patients) died due to oxygen shortage should take the Union government to court,’’ Raut said. “The Union government is running away from the truth. It seems it is the effect of Pegasus (Israeli spyware),’’ the Rajya Sabha member said sarcastically, referring to the phone-tapping allegations.
7. However, the Maharashtra government, of which Shiv Sena is a part, said the state never reported any death due to a shortage of oxygen during the second wave of COVID-19. “We never said people died due to oxygen shortage in the state. Many of them had issues like co-morbidities and other illnesses. No death has taken place due to the shortage of oxygen,’’ state Health Minister Rajesh Tope told reporters while replying to a query.
8. Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Prabhuram Choudhary too said that there has been no death on account of a shortage of medical oxygen in the BJP-ruled state. “There was no death due to shortage of oxygen. It is true that there were problems with the availability of oxygen, but the state government ensured supply,” he told reporters.
9. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also said there was no such death in the state.
10. Countering the opposition’s allegations, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra noted that the central government’s reply was based on the figures provided by states and UTs as health is a state subject. No state sent any data about patients dying due to oxygen shortage, he asserted and accused opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, of doing politics on the matter.