Covid casualties: BJP, Opposition spar over govt claim of no deaths due to lack of oxygen

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July 22, 2021 8:20 AM

The BJP said the Opposition was “playing politics in the pandemic”, while the Opposition parties accused the government of misleading the country.

oxygen shortageThe BJP said even Opposition-ruled states had, on record, not admitted to deaths due to lack of oxygen. (Photo source: IE)

A day after the Union health ministry told Rajya Sabha that “no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by the states and UT’s”, the BJP and the Opposition traded charges on Wednesday. The BJP said the Opposition was “playing politics in the pandemic”, while the Opposition parties accused the government of misleading the country.

The BJP said even Opposition-ruled states had, on record, not admitted to deaths due to lack of oxygen. It said the Centre only collects data sent to them, and does not “generate the data”. The Opposition, including the Congress and AAP, attacked the Centre, with Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain saying that they wouldn’t be surprised “if tomorrow the Centre says Covid never came to the country.”

On Tuesday, in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Health Bharti Jain Pawar had said: “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 and UTs”.

Amid a furore following the statement, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on Wednesday specifically targeted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the AAP, saying they were not refraining from doing politics even in the pandemic. “There are three things to note in the answer that was given by the Health Ministry to Parliament. Number one, that health is a state subject that pertains to states and union territories. Number two, the Centre says that we only collect data that is sent by the states. We do not generate the data. The third thing the Centre says is that we have issued guidelines by which the states and UTs can report their data of deaths and they do it on a regular basis. In the end, the Centre says that because no state or union territory has sent any data on any death specifically because of oxygen shortage, there is no data for this,” Patra said.

Patra said the Delhi government had told the Delhi High Court in the case of 21 deaths at Jaipur Golden Hospital that “oxygen shortage as the cause of death… could not be ascertained by an expert committee which probed the matter.” He also referred to media reports of the Maharashtra government telling the High Court that no patient had died of oxygen shortage in the state, and referred to media reports of Chhattisgarh minister T S Singhdeo saying the same thing.

“In Chhattisgarh, where there is a Congress government, the government is saying that there has not been even a single death because of oxygen shortage. Then Rahulji, why are you doing this kind of politics? I am very sad that your Maharashtra government, your Chhattisgarh government, when they say themselves that there is no death because of oxygen shortage, you are spreading falsehood by tweeting,” Patra said.

Earlier, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi said: “The deaths happened because in the pandemic year, the government increased oxygen exports by about 700%.” Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said people whose relatives died due to oxygen shortage should “take the Union government to court”.

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