A massive war of words has been sparked off between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Opposition after the Narendra Modi government informed Parliament that no Covid-19 deaths were specifically reported due to lack of oxygen.
In a written reply, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar had said that states and Union Territories had not specifically reported deaths due to lack of oxygen during the second wave of Coronavirus.
Further blaming the states, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said that Prime Minister repeatedly told the states that deaths have to be registered and that there was no reason to hide.
“The Prime Minister said it is the responsibility of the states. We keep a record of data provided by the states. That’s all the central government has to do,” Mansukh Mandaviya said.
The remarks sparked off Opposition fury, with many leaders accusing the government of lying in Parliament.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that the Centre would have to take responsibility for its oxygen mismanagement rather than lying to hide its mistakes.
“When the country was battling a brutal second wave of Covid-19, the Centre pushed the country into a full-blown oxygen crisis with its foolish policies. Why is Prime Minister Modi lying,” he asked, adding, “During April 15 and May 10, there was utter oxygen mismanagement by the Centre because of which there was chaos in hospitals. It changed its oxygen distribution policy after April 13, which led to a total disaster.”
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi claimed that deaths happened because the government did not arrange tankers to transport oxygen and ignored the advice of the empowered group and a parliamentary committee. No arrangement was made to provide oxygen.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said he was speechless by the minister’s remarks.
“What would have happened to the families of those who lost their loved ones to an oxygen shortage after hearing this statement? A case should be filed against the government. They are lying,” the Shiv Sena leader said.
Responding to the Opposition barbs, the BJP clarified that the Centre had clearly said that Health is a state and a Union Territory subject. It also said that the Centre did not collect any data but only collected it from the states and UTs.
Lashing out at the Sena MP Sanjay Raut, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said it is shocking that the Sena is engaging in politics and lying.
Showing media persons an affidavit by the Maharashtra government to the Bombay High Court, Patra claimed that it mentions that no deaths were reported due to shortage of oxygen in the state.
The Maharashtra government had told the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court on May 19 that no patient had died in the state because of oxygen shortage.
Responding to Congress Rahul Gandhi, who had taken to Twitter earlier in the day to say that besides the lack of oxygen, there was also a severe lack of sensitivity and truth, the BJP said that the Wayanad MP worked like a ‘Twitter troll’.
Instances of deaths due to oxygen shortage in the second wave
April-May: 19 Covid patients lost their lives due to oxygen shortage in Haryana.
May 2021: Over 80 people die over five days at a state-run medical facility in Goa.
May 2021: As many as 24 patients die at Chamarajanagar district in Karnataka after oxygen levels depleted.
May 2021: At least 23 Covid patients died due to a problem in oxygen supply inside the ICU in Government-run Ruia hospital in Andhra Pradesh.
May 2021: At least 12 Covid patients succumb due to lack of oxygen at Delhi’s Batra Hospital.