New Delhi: After a disastrous second wave tore into the lives of those affected with COVID-19, the union government on Tuesday claimed that “no death due to lack of oxygen was specifically reported by states and union territories during the second COVID-19 wave”.
The response, given by the government in Rajya Sabha, also noted health is a state subject. Though the health ministry acknowledged an unprecedented surge in the demand for medical oxygen during the second wave, the denial of death caused irked many, and the Opposition too came down heavily on its claim.
However, as many as six states so far have backed the Centre’s claim of ‘no deaths due to oxygen’ so far. It is noteworthy that they are not just Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states.
Calling Centre’s response in Parliament a fact, Madhya Pradesh minister for medical education Vishvas Kailash Sarang said: “The truth is that deaths have not happened due to oxygen shortage…during corona time, we procured 600 metric tonne (of oxygen) per day while our maximum consumption was 457 metric tonne,” Sarang said.
“The record speaks (for itself) and I want to thank the Centre for providing the facilities regarding oxygen procurement, including (pressing) military flights and trains,” he said.
Madhya Pradesh health minister Prabhuram Choudhary too supported Sarang’s comments.
“There was no death due to shortage of oxygen,” he told reporters in Bhopal. “It is true that there were problems with the availability of oxygen, but the state government ensured supply,” he added.
Gujarat’s chief minister responded to the claims by saying that their state too did not witness deaths due to oxygen shortage.
“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.
Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey also said the state government made arrangements to avoid deaths due to lack of oxygen, reported ANI. “We received the Centre’s support and oxygen allocation was increased,” he said, adding “We facilitated oxygen in all hospitals.”
Bihar has reported 9,632 deaths so far.
Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope on Wednesday told ANI that no COVID-19 patient had died in the state due to lack of oxygen. “We filed an affidavit to this effect in the court also. We had diverted 100 per cent oxygen meant for industrial use for medical purposes,” he was quoted as saying by ANI.
His remarks come after Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut earlier in the day said that the Centre is “lying” about the oxygen shortage and that a “case should be filed against the government”.
“I am speechless. What would have happened to the families of those who lost their loved ones to oxygen shortage after hearing this statement?” Raut told ANI.
The death toll in the state stands at 1,30,918, as of Wednesday.
Tamil Nadu health minister M Subramaniam told ANI that the government worked on a war footing to prevent deaths due to oxygen shortages.
“When we faced lack of oxygen, we came in touch with the Centre at once and procured oxygen from them,” he added. “So we didn’t face big effects here.”
Health secretary J Radhakrishna also said on Tuesday that the state government ensured adequate availability of oxygen in both government and private hospitals and there was no death due to lack of the life-saving gas.
Chhattisgarh health minister TS Singh Deo also voiced similar things, backing the Centre’s claims.
“It is true that no patient died due to the lack of oxygen in Chhattisgarh. Our state is an oxygen-surplus state. There could have been some issues regarding management, otherwise, there is no death due to lack of oxygen,” Deo told news agency ANI.
“At least they (Central government) 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,” said Deo.
Delhi denies Centre’s claims
Delhi, on the other hand, accused the union government of “lying” in Parliament that no deaths were caused due to oxygen shortage.
Addressing the press on Wednesday, Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said that there was a genuine oxygen crisis across the country between April 15 and May 10.
“During this period, there was utter oxygen mismanagement by the Centre because of which, there was chaos in hospitals. The Centre is now lying to hide its mistakes. It changed its oxygen distribution policy after April 13 which led to a total disaster. The Centre will have to take responsibility for this,” said Sisodia.
Responding to BJP spokesperson’s comment on oxygen shortage deaths in Delhi, Sisodia said: “We are saying this to the court that the Centre is not allowing us to make a committee which is to investigate all such deaths… If you ask us today, we have no data of deaths that happened due to oxygen shortage. We will be able to get such a number only if the Centre allows us to form the committee.”
An independent database says that there have been 619 deaths due to oxygen shortage across the country. The deaths recorded are based on reports from newspapers and news media in English and regional languages, social media, and networks of volunteers working on the ground, its website says.