The shortage of medical oxygen had grappled hospitals in April and May.
No data was provided by states on deaths due to oxygen shortage - this statement by the Centre has led to a huge political backlash. At the peak of second Covid wave, the struggle among India's hospitals and patients had captured global attention.
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Oxygen shortage led to many deaths in India, including in the national capital, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said today, slamming the centre. "It's completely false to say no one died due to oxygen crisis. Why were hospitals making desperate appeals everyday at the High Court? The centre may soon say there was no pandemic," he said.
"We constituted an Oxygen Audit Committee to assess deaths and provide compensation. But the central government, through Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, dismissed it to hide the truth," Mr Jain said. The centre is trying to hide its fault, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said, calling the government policies "a disaster".
In a written reply to Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Junior Health Minister Bharati Praveen Pawar stated that health is a state subject and states and Union Territories regularly report the number of cases and deaths to the centre. "However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported," she said.
Blaming the states, the country's new Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told parliament: "Prime Minister repeatedly told the states...deaths have to be registered, there's no reason to hide. It's the responsibility of the states. We keep a record of data provided by the states. That's all the central government has to do."
Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut today attacked the ruling BJP over the statements: "I am speechless. For families who've lost their loved ones due to the shortage of medical oxygen, how would they've felt listening to this. These families should file a case against the government," he told reporters.
In a counter-attack, Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi tweeted: "Mr Sanjay Raut, I am aghast at the doublespeak of double defaulters, Shiv Sena and Congress. Please provide the number of deaths in the state of Maharashtra due to oxygen shortage to the central government and also to the press. Same logic applies to Delhi, which was the epicentre."
In Delhi, 25 people had died in April at the Jaipur Golden Hospital. Gaurav Gera, 23, and his sister Bharti lost both their parents in the tragedy. "We were pained to hear the government's statements in the parliament. My father was fine. When we got a call about his death, doctor told us about oxygen shortage," Mr Gera recalled. "We've lost our parents but the politics is still on," he said.
In Uttar Pradesh, Shankar Dayal, 61, who worked at one of Lucknow's biggest hospitals till 2020, died gasping at his home. "We went to many hospitals, but we were denied admission. There were no beds, no oxygen. We had to bring our father back home. He died because we could not arrange a fresh oxygen cylinder. We went through an endless struggle," Prince Kumar, one of Mr Dayal's sons, told NDTV.
India saw a massive shortage of medical oxygen and hospital beds at the peak of the second wave and many nations came forward to help amid desperate appeals on social media. In Goa, over 80 people died at a state-run medical facility over five days in May. In Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, 11 Covid patients admitted to a hospital ICU died.
Across the country, courts saw marathon hearings over the issue as patients and their families faced shortage and black marketing of oxygen cylinders. India is now witnessing a drop in daily Covid cases amid concern of a third wave.