Will resend oxygen panel proposal to Lieutenant Governor, says Sisodia
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday said the Delhi government was resending a proposal to lieutenant governor (LG) Anil Baijal to set up an audit committee to ascertain the number of deaths caused by the oxygen shortage in the city during the second national wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also wrote to Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya urging him to request the LG to allow constituting the panel so such deaths can be probed.
Addressing a digital press briefing, the deputy chief minister on Thursday stressed on the need for the panel, saying it will be difficult to determine if there were oxygen-related deaths in April-May without a proper inquiry.
On May 27, the state government set up a six-member panel to look into deaths caused due to oxygen shortages at the peak of the second wave of Covid-19 (fourth for Delhi).
The panel was also asked to ascertain the criteria for compensation of ₹50,000 to ₹5 lakh to be given to families of the deceased. The committee comprised five doctors from Delhi government hospitals, and one member from the director general of health services’ office.
“But through the LG, the Centre did not allow that committee to be formed. We are sending the file again to the Delhi LG for approval. We will carry out the probe with full responsibility and even punish those who were guilty,” Sisodia said.
The LG’s office did not respond to request for comment on the matter.
On June 16, Sisodia said in a press briefing that the Centre dismissed the Delhi government’s panel saying a similar committee was constituted weeks before that on the directions of the Supreme Court.
On Thursday, Sisodia said the national capital has recorded a total of over 25,000 deaths due to Covid-19, and emphasised that it needs to be probed how many of these were linked to the oxygen crisis in April and May.
“We cannot say there was no oxygen crisis. The families of patients, hospitals were sending out SOS messages for help at that time,” he said on Thursday.
The issue of the panel has become a new flashpoint with the Delhi government and the Centre in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said his ministry, on July 26, wrote to the Delhi government seeking details on deaths caused by oxygen shortage in Delhi during the latest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mandaviya’s comment was in response to Sisodia’s comments on Tuesday, when the deputy chief minister said that the central government did not write any letter to the Delhi government seeking details of the deaths caused by oxygen shortage.
On Wednesday, Sisodia reacted to Mandaviya’s comment, saying the Centre gave states barely 12-13 hours to respond to their letter, and that they were not informed that the responses could have been sent till August 13.
At the peak of the fourth wave of infections, Delhi recorded around 28,300 cases in a day and a positivity rate exceeding 36%.
Around that time, at least 31 people are believed to have died because of oxygen shortage in separate incidents in two separate facilities — between April 23 and 24 at Jaipur Golden hospital and on May 1 at Batra hospital.
On May 4, the state government told the Delhi high court that an expert committee could not ascertain whether 21 deaths at Jaipur Golden hospital had happened because of oxygen shortage.
On July 20, when the Centre told Parliament that states have so far recorded no deaths caused by oxygen shortage, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi criticised the Union government saying that they did not let the city government probe such matters by setting up a larger expert committee.
When asked about its previous statements in the court, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said that those were based on “preliminary” findings and the matter needed more investigation.