Centre dismissed the Delhi govt’s panel to audit oxygen deaths: Sisodia
New Delhi: Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday alleged that the Centre has dismissed a committee constituted by the Delhi government to investigate Covid-19 deaths that took place due to a shortage of oxygen in the city over the past two months, as the Capital dealt with a brutal fourth wave of infections. The Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, justified the move, since a similar committee was constituted weeks ahead of the city administration’s order, on the directions of the Supreme Court.
Addressing a digital press briefing, Sisodia said the Delhi government on May 27 issued an order setting up its own six-member committee to assess every Covid-19 deaths that took place due to a scarcity of oxygen and approve compensation of up to ₹5 lakh for their families. The committee comprised five doctors from Delhi government hospitals and one member from the state director general of health services’ office.
“As all of you know, there was an oxygen crunch during the previous Covid-19 wave in Delhi. Oxygen supply was diverted to other places [states]. There were also some deaths due to the lack of oxygen supply in the city. Following the court’s directive, the Delhi government constituted a committee of health experts to look into the incidents and ascertain what led to these deaths. It is extremely saddening that the central government has dismissed this committee. I don’t understand why the central government has an issue with this,” he said.
Central government spokespersons did not respond to requests for comment.
Delhi struggled with a severe shortage of medical oxygen during a crippling fourth Covid-19 wave between April and May, forcing the Supreme Court to step in and order the Centre to ensure the Capital’s oxygen requirements were met.
Sisodia on Wednesday also accused the Centre of regularly interfering with state governments, and preventing them from doing “good work”.
“As a responsible government, the Delhi government wants to offer compensation of up to ₹5 lakh to the families of those who died and investigate and confirm what led to these deaths. The central government is not letting this happen. Why does it like to obstruct any good step taken or work being done by the state governments? This is not just about Delhi. Many other states including West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Jharkhand are facing different kinds of obstructions from the Centre,” he said.
“This decision to dismiss the committee is unreasonable and has no logic. I appeal to the Centre to stop their childish practices. The people of Delhi want the government they elected to work without any obstructions, but the Centre has continued to act as an obstruction to the rights of the people,” he said.
The Delhi unit of the BJP accused Sisodia of “dirty politics” over compensation for families of Covid-19 patients who “died due to the negligence of the Delhi government.”
“The Supreme Court of India already formed a committee with regards to oxygen deaths compensation on May 6, 2021, comprising Dr Randeep Guleria (director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi), Dr Sandeep Budhiraja (director, Max Healthcare) and one joint secretary-level officer each from the Centre and Delhi government. This Supreme Court committee was working for 10 days when the Delhi government jumped in to form a separate committee on May 27,” said Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor.
The BJP instead appealed to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Sisodia to focus on preparing for a potential third wave of Covid-19 and augmenting health infrastructure accordingly. “Today (Wednesday), in light of the fact that a high powered four-member committee with the Delhi government’s representation is working on the matter, the city administration has been asked to disband its committee,” he said.