Centre lied in Parliament over deaths due to oxygen shortage: Sisodia

Jul 21, 2021 02:40 PM IST

Addressing a digital press conference, Sisodia said there was “utter mismanagement” of oxygen supply during the second wave in the country and blamed the Centre’s policies for the “disaster” that unfolded in the country

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday accused the Central government of “lying” in Parliament that no deaths were caused due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. (File photo)
Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. (File photo)

Addressing a digital press conference, Sisodia said there was “utter mismanagement” of oxygen supply during the second wave in the country and blamed the Centre’s policies for the “disaster” that unfolded in the country.

“The Centre blatantly and shamelessly lied to the Parliament on Tuesday. 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.

“Today, to reinforce that lie, BJP spokespersons held a press conference and bashed non-BJP state governments, including that of Arvind Kejriwal [Delhi]. This has been etched in the history now that when the country was battling a brutal second wave of Covid-19, the Centre, because of its foolish policies, pushed the country into a full blown oxygen crisis… Why is Prime Minister Modi lying?” he said.

Also Read | Delhi minister hits out at Centre’s ‘no deaths due to oxygen shortage’ remark

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on Wednesday said the Delhi government itself submitted an affidavit in the court claiming none of the 20 Covid-19 deaths that happened in Jaipur Golden hospital between April 23-24 in the national Capital were caused due to oxygen shortage.

Responding to this, 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.”

Delhi endured a punishing fourth wave of Covid-19 infections between April and May that left the health infrastructure overrun, medical workers overwhelmed, and led to crematoriums running out of space. Over 760,000 people were infected in that period, while over 13,000 died of the infection between April and May alone. Cases in the city began to peter out towards the middle of May on the back of a lockdown, which the state government imposed from April 19. The situation worsened with the city reeling under an acute shortage of oxygen.

The deputy chief minister alleged that the Centre “troubled” non-BJP-ruled states by allocating them oxygen from distant places. “When CM Kejriwal took responsibility and admitted that people indeed died due to oxygen shortage, the Centre stepped back. Kejriwal had ordered the constitution of a special committee which was to investigate every Covid-19 death due to oxygen shortage in Delhi, fix responsibility for the lapses, and give compensation to such families. But, the Centre, through the L-G, did not allow us to make this committee. They just want to hide real facts. If you (Centre) have the courage to face the truth, then allow Kejriwal to form this committee and conduct an independent inquiry into each death caused due to oxygen shortage,” Sisodia said.

In a writtten statement in Parliament, the Central on Tuesday said no deaths specifically due to lack of oxygen were reported by states and Union territories during the second Covid-19 wave. Responding to a question on whether a large number of Covid-19 patients died on roads and hospitals due to acute shortage of oxygen during the second wave, minister of state (health), Bharati Pravin Pawar said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha ,“Due to unprecedented surge in demand of medical oxygen during the second wave -- the demand in the country peaked to nearly 9,000 MT as compared to 3,095 MT during the first wave -- the Central government had to step in to facilitate equitable distribution to the states.”

“Detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by the Union health ministry to all states and UTs... Accordingly, all states and UTs report cases and deaths to the Union health ministry on a regular basis. However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by States/UTs,” stated Pawar’s reply.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said, “If there was no shortage of oxygen, why did hospitals move court? Hospitals and the media were flagging oxygen shortage issues daily. Television channels showed how hospitals were running out of the life-saving gas. It is completely false to say that no one died due to oxygen shortage. There have been many deaths due to oxygen shortage in Delhi and many other places across the country.”

The country has been coming out of a deadly second wave of the outbreak which overwhelmed the medical infrastructure to the point of a breakdown. At its peak of second wave, India recorded 414,188 infections in a span of 24 hours on May 6. The cases have receded gradually since, and India recorded its lowest daily spike in 125 days at 30,093 infections on Tuesday. But on Wednesday, it recorded 42,015 fresh cases of coronavirus infections, taking the cumulative tally past 31,216,337, data from the Union ministry of health and family welfare showed.

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    Sweta Goswami writes on politics, urban development, transportation, energy and social welfare. Based in Delhi, she tracks government policies and suggests corrections based on public feedback and on-ground implementation through her reports. She has also covered the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) since its inception.

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