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Cong moves privilege motion against MoS

ByMalavika PM
Jul 23, 2021 12:33 AM IST

The Congress on Thursday moved a breach of privilege motion against the minister of state for health Bharati Pravin Pawar for allegedly misleading Parliament over deaths due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic

The Congress on Thursday moved a breach of privilege motion against the minister of state for health Bharati Pravin Pawar for allegedly misleading Parliament over deaths due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

MoS for health and family welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar. (File photo)
MoS for health and family welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar. (File photo)

She told Parliament on Tuesday that no state reported such fatalities and triggered a war of words between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Opposition parties. Her submission brought back the focus on a crisis that in part defined the devastation of the second wave. HT on Thursday cited a database of media reports from the time and reported it has identified at least 619 deaths that likely occurred because of lack of oxygen. Many more deaths may have taken place outside of inundated hospitals. In the same report, HT also pointed out that almost all states continue to deny that they saw any deaths on account of a shortage of oxygen.

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The Congress accused Pawar of distorting facts with the “intention to mislead and deceive the August House” over the actual number of deaths due to lack of oxygen during the second wave.

“This amounts to a breach of privilege and contempt of the House and the minister is guilty of contempt,” said Congress lawmaker K C Venugopal said. Pawar made the submission in response to Venugopal’s question in Rajya Sabha.

HT reached out to several BJP leaders for comment on the issue but did not get any response.

Venugopal said everyone saw how people died due to a shortage of oxygen including in the national capital. In a letter to Rajya Sabha chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu, Venugopal cited examples of deaths reported due to oxygen shortage. He referred to a newspaper report and added between May 11 and 15, 83 deaths due to acute oxygen shortage were reported at the Goa Medical College. He also cited similar instances in places such as Karnataka and Haryana, where the government ordered an investigation into at least 19 deaths due to oxygen shortage between April 5 and May 1.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain, too, attacked the Centre, saying it was “completely false” to say no one died for want of oxygen. “If no deaths occurred due to oxygen shortage, why did hospitals move high court one after another every day? Hospitals had been saying that oxygen shortage led to deaths. The media, tolagged this issue daily,” Jain told reporters.The AAP leader said the Delhi government set up a committee to collect data on such deaths and give 5 lakh compensation to the families of the deceased, “but the Centre got the panel disbanded through the lieutenant governor”.

The BJP has maintained health is a state subject and that it just collects the data from the states, not generate it.

According to Parliamentary rules, if individuals or authority violate or disregard any of the privileges, powers and immunities of the House or members or committees thereof, they are liable for punishment for breach of privilege or contempt of the House. The House has the power to determine what constitutes the breach of privilege and contempt. The penal jurisdiction of the House in this regard covers its members as well as strangers and every act of violation of privileges, whether committed in the immediate presence of the House or outside of it. A person found guilty of breach of privilege or contempt of the House “may be punished either by imprisonment, or by admonition (warning), or reprimand”, according to chapter 16 of Rajya Sabha rulebook. Two other punishments may also be awarded to the members for contempt--suspension and expulsion from the House.

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