Rejecting as “false” the Centre’s claim, the health minister in the Delhi government, Satyendar Jain, on Wednesday said the Centre did not even ask for data related to such deaths but the Delhi government did try to ascertain the number on its own by setting up a panel.
“Television channels and newspapers reported how hospitals ran out of oxygen. It is completely false and wrong 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. It was really sad and unfortunate… The Centre is rubbing salt into the wounds of those who have lost their loved ones. Tomorrow, they will even say that there have been no deaths due to Covid-19,” Jain told mediapersons.
The minister then accused the Centre of having obstructed the Delhi government’s effort to collect data. “The Delhi government had 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. Else, we would have got the exact data as to how many people died due to oxygen shortage in Delhi. I think the Centre disbanded the panel so that they could say no one died due to the oxygen crisis,” Jain alleged.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “There was not just a shortage of oxygen. There was an acute shortage of sensitivity and truth then, it was there then and is there now too.”
Tagging a report of a think tank’s assessment of India’s Covid deaths, Gandhi tweeted to claim that there were 50 lakh Covid deaths in the country: “GOI’s wrong decisions during Covid second wave killed 50 lakh of our sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers”.
AICC general secretary KC Venugopal, whose question in the Rajya Sabha received the controversial reply from the junior health minister, has already said he would move a notice for breach of privilege.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told media persons in Delhi that the families of those who died due to oxygen shortage should file a case against the Centre for making such a statement. “I am speechless. For families who have 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.”
Maintaining that “the government’s untruthfulness in Parliament stands completely exposed”, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said the Parliament should hold the government accountable for ‘breach of parliamentary privilege’. He also hit out at the Centre for seeking more time to decide on ex-gratia compensation to the families of Covid casualties.