Aday after the Union Health Ministry told Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to lack of medical oxygen have been reported by states and UTs during the second wave of Covid-19, health ministers of several states have issued statements supporting the Centre. This includes health ministers of opposition-ruled states.
On Tuesday, while responding to a question on whether many Covid-19 patients died on roads and hospitals due to acute shortage of medical oxygen in the second wave, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar said since health is a state subject, states and UTs are responsible for collecting data on Covid-19 deaths.
“No deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs,” he said.
The government however acknowledged 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 just 3,095 MT in the first wave.
Reacting to the controversy, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani claimed no one died due to shortage of medical oxygen in the state during the second wave.
“No Covid-19 patient died due to shortage of oxygen in our state. Nearly 8.5 lakh Covid-19 patients have been treated in Gujarat so far. We have several dedicated Covid-19 hospitals because of which lakhs of people have recovered and been discharged. No patient died due to lack of oxygen at any hospital in the state,” Vijay Rupani said.
Opposition-ruled Maharashtra too echoed the Centre’s stand on deaths caused due to lack of oxygen during the second wave.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, “Not a single patient in the state died due to oxygen shortage. We had given an affidavit stating this in the courts. We utilised all oxygen that was being produced in the state and effectively used it and managed the supply.”
However, in contradicting the health minister’s statement, Rajya Sabha MP and senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said he is “speechless” after hearing the Centre’s reply in the Rajya Sabha.
“I am speechless. What would happen to families of those who lost their loved ones due to oxygen shortage after hearing this statement? A case should be filed against the central government. They are lying,” Sanjay Raut said. His party, the Shiv Sena, is part of the ruling alliance in Maharashtra.
Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey said no one died of oxygen shortage in the state. “A total of 9,632 people have died of Covid-19 in Bihar so far but none of them died due to shortage of medical oxygen.”
The minister added that during the second wave, Bihar’s demand for medical oxygen saw a 14-fold increase. “But this did not result in any death,” he said.
Hitting out at Pandey, former Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav said the minister is “lying”.
“Thousands of people have died due to shortage of medical oxygen in the state in the past few months. Despite this, the health minister is lying and is trying to fool the people,” he said.
Tamil Nadhu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan also claimed that while the state did face shortage of medical oxygen, there were no deaths caused by it.
“During the second wave, there was challenge in ensuring supply of medical oxygen. But there was no death that was directly attributable to shortage of oxygen. Had it been the case, all critical patients (on oxygen support) would have suffered and died. Such incident was not reported anywhere. The government also constituted an audit committee and all Covid-19 deaths were due to medical reasons,” Radhakrishnan said.
Speaking on the matter, Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Prabhuram Choudhary said the Centre’s reply in the Rajya Sabha was based on the data provided by states and UTs. “It is correct that no one died due to shortage of medical oxygen in Madhya Pradesh.”
He added, “There were situations when there was a shortage of medical oxygen in hospitals but out government took timely action to assure adequate supply.”
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant too claimed that no person died due to shortage of medical oxygen during the second wave of coronavirus infections in Goa.
“Goa is the only state which reported accurate Covid-19 deaths. However, there was a delay in reporting deaths from private hospitals,” the chief minister said.
Delhi health Minister Satyendra Jain meanwhile hit out at the central government for its statement in the Rajya Sabha.
“The Centre will soon say there was no Covid-19 pandemic. If there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen, then why were hospitals going to high courts? This (Centre’s reply) is completely false,” Jain said.
He added that the Delhi government had formed an audit committee to assess availability and demand of oxygen and provide compensation to Covid-19 victims. “This committee was stopped by the Centre through the Lieutenant Governor.”
“The Centre is rubbing salt on the wounds of the victims. We will appeal the LG to allow us to run the committee. Many people died due to shortage of oxygen,” Jain said.
He added that the Delhi government has already submitted a report on the death audit committee to the Delhi High Court on deaths of 21 patients.
Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Deo said, “It is true that no patient died due to lack of medical oxygen. We have been an oxygen-surplus state. There could have been some issues regarding management, otherwise, there was no death due to lack of oxygen.”
He added that while there were reports of shortage of oxygen in hospitals in Delhi and other places but it is up to the governments there how they report deaths caused by oxygen shortage.
“At least they (Centre) admitted that health is a state subject. Otherwise, it appeared as if they are taking everything under their control. They take credit for all goods things and blame states for everything that is bad,” TS Singh Deo said.
YOU ARE INSENSITIVE, SAYS OPPOSITION
Slamming the Modi government, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “Apart from shortage of medical oxygen, there is also shortage of sensitivity and truth. This shortage existed back then (during second wave) and continues.”
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, “The government has perfected the art of facing every tragedy with bluff and bluster. First, it was no shortage of vaccines. Just yesterday, Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh reported it has run out of vaccines. It is the same story in many vaccination centres.”
He added that now it is “no reports of deaths due to shortage of oxygen”.
“Read that carefully. Minister did not say there were ‘no deaths’. He said ‘no REPORTS of deaths’. A blind and deaf government will not be able to ‘see’ or ‘hear’ the truth,” Chidambaram tweeted.
Reacting to the Congress’s allegation, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said there are three things that one must pay attention to in the reply given by the government in Parliament. “The government has said health is a state subject. It said it just collects the data sent by the state/UTs. It doesn’t generate the data.”
“Rahul Gandhi and the Aam Aadmi Party are doing politics over Covid-19 deaths. The health ministry has replied in very categorical terms that health is states subject.”
“Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut is saying he is shocked to hear the government’s reply but the Maharashtra government in its affidavit in the court itself said no deaths have occurred due to shortage of oxygen in the state,” Sambit Patra said.
Hitting out at the Congress, he said Chhattisgarh Health Minister TS Singh Dev said that was no death due to oxygen shortage in his state. “We are surprised. Rahul Gandhi should know what Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh governments have said in their statements.” India Today