The Union Health Ministry has said that there was no data available on any deaths due to lack of oxygen as states had not provided 'specific' information about such deaths. The deadly second wave of COVID-19 hit India in April-May and according to media reports many deaths were caused in hospitals due to shortage of oxygen. The ministers response in Rajya Sabha drew sharp criticism from the Opposition.
Junior health minister Bharati Praveen Pawar said in Rajya Sabha, “Health is a state subject and states and UTs regularly report the number of cases and deaths to the Centre.” "However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states and UTs,” he added.
Authorities in many places have denied the deaths caused due to a shortage of oxygen supply. According to an NDTV report, over 80 people allegedly lost their lives at a state-run medical facility in Goa over five days in May. In Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, disruption in the medical oxygen supply led to the death of 11 Covid patients in the ICU. A two-hour cut in oxygen supply caused the death of seven patients in Hyderabad’s government hospital.
The centre had vetoed an investigation ordered by the Delhi government on deaths caused by oxygen shortage last month. The case with 21 deaths at a hospital in Delhi is still pending in the High Court. "This is a blind and unconcerned government. People have seen how many of their near and dear ones have died because of lack of oxygen," said KC Venugopal.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi later tweeted, "There was not just a shortage of oxygen. There was an acute shortage of sensitivity and truth then, it was there then and is there now too."
Adding to the ante against the centre, Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram took to Twitter and wrote, "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."
"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 added.
Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday defended the government and claimed that the states were in charge of registering and providing death figures and that it was wrong to blame the Union Ministry.
“Whom are you blaming? You are blaming the Indian government, you are blaming Modi Ji. Who does the registration? The states do. Who decides the count? The states do. They have to do the registration, they have to put in the numbers. Here, no one has asked them to stop. Modi Ji said that if there is a backlog put that as well. There is no reason to hide it," he said.