Months after submitting in the Delhi High Court that there had been no deaths due to shortage of oxygen in the national capital, Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain on Wednesday lashed out at the central government after it informed the Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by States and UTs during the second COVID-19 wave. Jain also claimed that there had been deaths due to oxygen shortage in Delhi and other parts of the country.
“If there was no shortage of oxygen, why did hospitals move court? Hospitals and the media had been flagging oxygen shortage issues daily. Television channels showed that how hospitals were running out of life-saving gas. It is completely false 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,” he said while speaking to reporters on Wednesday.
Jain further added that the Centre had actively hindered the Delhi government’s efforts to maintain a record of such deaths.
“We had formed an audit committee to compile complete data of every death caused by lack of oxygen and to give them compensation of Rs. 5 lakh, which the Central Government stopped through the Lieutenant-Governor. And I think the reason for this was so that they could say later that there were no deaths…Tomorrow they will say that there were no deaths in Delhi and the country because of COVID,” he said.
Delhi govt in April 2021 submitted in High Court that there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen in the national capital
However, Jain’s assertion that many people in Delhi died due to the paucity of life-saving gas is in sharp contrast to the submissions made by Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party government before the Delhi High Court. The Delhi government had then stated that the deaths of 21 patients at north Delhi’s Jaipur Golden Hospital on April 23-24 was not due to lack of medical oxygen.
झूठ पकड़ा गया- केजरीवाल सरकार खुद हाई कोर्ट को लिखित में दे चुकी है कि उसके यहां ऑक्सिजन की कमी से कोई मौत नहीं हुई, मई में हाईकोर्ट में दाखिल जवाब में दिल्ली सरकार ने अपनी चार सदस्यीय कमिटी की रिपोर्ट कोर्ट में पेश की थी और बताया था कि कोई मौत #OxygenShortage से नहीं हुई. pic.twitter.com/gcEsUAf2qi— Vikas Bhadauria (ABP News) (@vikasbha) July 21, 2021
The Delhi government on April 28 had constituted a 4-member committee to probe the number of deaths due to lack of oxygen in hospitals across the city following an order issued by the High Court on April 27. In its preliminary report, the committee had refused to attribute the cause of death of patients to lack of oxygen and had stated that almost all of them were either very sick to critically ill during the course of their hospital stay even prior to the evening of April 23.
Mismanagement and inefficiency of Delhi government that exacerbated the oxygen crisis in the national capital
This glaring contradiction in Jain’s response now and the Delhi government’s report in April not only raises doubt over the authenticity of claims it made in its submissions to the High Court but also on its attempts to cover up its bungled handling of oxygen demand. As such, it is worth noting that the Delhi government was also accused of mismanagement and inefficiency that exacerbated the oxygen crisis in the national capital.
The audit team appointed by the Supreme Court has found out that the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government exaggerated the oxygen requirement in the national capital by more than four times during the April 25-May 10 peak period of the Covid-19 second wave.
The Supreme Court-appointed oxygen audit team had exposed the Delhi government’s claims of oxygen shortage in the national capital, saying that the Delhi government had exaggerated the oxygen requirement in Delhi by more than four times during the second wave of the pandemic even as the country was facing it tough to source liquid medical oxygen (LMO).
Curiously, days after it was announced that the SC-appointed team would conduct the Delhi government’s claims of oxygen shortage in the city, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government said that they had an excess supply of the same and offered to give the surplus oxygen to the States who needed it.
Did the Centre really say there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen during second wave of COVID-19?
Earlier yesterday, the central government responded in the Rajya Sabha today to a question on whether a large number of COVID-19 died on roads and hospitals due to an acute shortage of oxygen in the second wave.
Responding to the question, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar informed the Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs during the second COVID-19 wave. Pawar further mentioned that health is a state subject and states and UTs have been issued detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths by the Union Health Ministry.
“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,” Pawar said in a written reply.
In essence, Pawar was simply answering based on the responses he had received from various states and union territories. None of the states and union territories, according to Pawar, had reported death due to lack of oxygen. It was individual state and union territory’s remit to report the cause of the deaths to the Centre.