Oppn Attack, Varying Views, BJP’s Reply

Parliament may witness a stormy session on Thursday as Congress Rajya Sabha lawmaker KC Venugopal is set to move a privilege motion around 10 am against Centre’s “lie” on deaths related to shortage of oxygen supply during second wave.

“The government has lied about Covid deaths due to lack of oxygen,” he said. The government had told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs during the second Covid-19 wave, drawing sharp criticism from opposition leaders.

Deaths of patients in hospitals due to lack of the life-saving gas were reported from several states during the peak of the second wave in April-May as the demand for medical oxygen zoomed.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on Wednesday said that the central government’s reply was based on the figures provided by states and UTs as health is a state subject.

What the Opposition Says:

Congress: Rahul Gandhi said that the truth is Government of India’s wrong decisions during Covid second wave killed 50 lakh of our sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.

The Truth. GOI’s wrong decisions during Covid second wave killed 50 lakh of our sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.https://t.co/dv3IRenXWm

— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 21, 2021

On Tuesday too, the former Congress president had hit out at the government, following which Union minister Giriraj Singh called him “brainless” in a tweet written in Italian, which was seen as an attack on Gandhi’s ‘Italian roots’.

After Sambit Patra countered opposition’s attacks, Kapil Sibal said that government has closed its eyes. “They don’t want see and hear the reality,” he added.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel said that Centre’s reply on oxygen was laughable. “We all know what happened in Delhi due to lack of oxygen. In UP, hospitals were told not to hang board citing lack of O2. For the government to say that there were no deaths due to oxygen shortage is laughable,” he added.

Samajwadi Party: SP chief Akhilesh Yadav accused government of “orphaning” its people. “People were struggling for oxygen. BJP was responsible for not providing it, and people know this. BJP has been lying. The government orphaned its people,” he said.

Aam Aadmi Party: Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the city government did not have data on deaths due to lack of oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19 as the Centre has not given nod to its panel meant to probe such fatalities.

His reaction came after Patra said while Kejriwal government was claiming oxygen shortage, in a written report to the high court, it said there were no deaths because of oxygen shortage. “Did the Delhi government give any data to the Central government indicating even one life was lost because of oxygen shortage?” Patra asked, addressing the media.

Sisodia also charged the Centre with trying to “hide its fault” and alleged that its “mismanagement” and change in oxygen distribution policy after April 13 caused the shortage of oxygen in the hospitals across the country, leading to a “disaster”. “We all saw what happened in April-May. Media has reported on it, and I was getting messages from officials at hospitals and people were requesting for help, complaining about lack of oxygen,” he said.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain said that deaths due to oxygen shortage have not only happened in Delhi, but other states too. He accused Centre of adding salt to the wounds of the state with the reply on Covid deaths in Parliament. “Sarkar jale pe namak chidak rahi hai,” he said.

Jain further said, “We also announced compensation for deaths due to oxygen shortage but LG did not approve our proposal so that the truth doesn’t come out.”

Shiv Sena: MP Sanjay Raut, whose party shares power with the NCP and Congress in Maharashtra, said people whose relatives died due to oxygen shortage should “take the Union government to court”.

States, Including the One Ruled by Oppn, Narrate a Different Tale

Maharashtra: Differing with Raut, state health minister Rajesh Tope said the state government never reported any death due to shortage of oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19.

When asked by a TV channel about the Centre’s statement, Tope said, We never said people died due to oxygen shortage in the state. Many of them had issues like co-morbidities and other illnesses. No death has taken place due to the shortage of oxygen.

Chhattisgarh: According to Sambit Patra, Congress-ruled states such as Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra (where it is runs a coalition government with the Shiv Sena) have also not reported any deaths on account of oxygen shortage.

He quoted Chhattisgarh health minister as saying that no one was killed due to oxygen shortage. “The Maharashtra government told the high court in an affidavit there is no shortage…The Chhattisgarh health minister, TS Singh Deo, also said there were no deaths because of oxygen shortage. …Then why is Rahul Gandhi politicising the issue? Both the Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh governments are stating that there have been no deaths due to oxygen shortage. Why are you creating fear and confusion in the country,” Patra said.

Tamil Nadu: State health minister Ma. Subramanian said that there has not been a single death in Tamil Nadu because of lack of oxygen.

Madhya Pradesh: Madhya Pradesh saw no deaths due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of the Covid and the Centre’s statement made in the Rajya Sabha in this regard is a fact, said Minister for Medical Education of the State Vishwas Kailash Sarang on Wednesday.

“In our State, no death has happened anywhere due to oxygen shortage. Like the Central Minister said in the House, that is the truth,” he said in an apparent reference to the written reply of Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. “The truth is that deaths have not happened due to oxygen shortage…during corona time, we procured 600 metric tonne (of oxygen) per day while our maximum consumption was 457 metric tonne,” Sarang said.

BJP’s Counter

BJP spokesperson slammed the opposition for politicising the issue. These opposition-ruled states had spoken about patients dying due to the oxygen crisis when the second wave was peaking as they wanted to target the Modi government but have taken a different stand in writing and their submission to courts, he said, adding that it shows they want to politicise the whole issue.

It is not that the central government has tied their hands, and they should have spoken truth when they were asked to submit their response in writing, he asserted. To a question about the BJP-run states, Patra said people might have suffered there too but they neither levelled allegations like the opposition-ruled states nor the issue was taken to high courts there in this manner.

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