The Union health ministry has said the states have not provided any information on deaths of Covid patients in hospitals due to lack of oxygen. With a number of deaths due to oxygen shortage making headlines during the second wave, especially in Delhi, the matter drew sharp criticism from the opposition.
Health is a state subject and states and UTs regularly report the number of cases and deaths to the Centre, junior health minister Bharati Praveen Pawar had said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.
“However, no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states and UTs,” added Ms Pawar, responding to the question on whether Covid patients died on roads and hospitals due to oxygen shortage.
In Goa, more than 80 people died at a state-run medical facility over five days in May. In Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, 11 Covid patients who were at the ICU of a hospital died after the supply of medical oxygen was disrupted. At a hospital in Hyderabad, seven patients died at a government hospital during a two-hour cut in oxygen supply.
In most places the authorities have denied that the deaths took place due to oxygen shortage.
Last month the Centre had vetoed an investigation ordered by the Delhi government into the deaths caused by a lack of oxygen supply. At one hospital in Delhi, 21 patients died due to oxygen shortage and the matter is pending in the High Court.
“This is a blind and unconcerned government. People have seen how many of their near and dear ones have died because of lack of oxygen,” said KC Venugopal.
Mr Venugopal, who also asked the question on oxygen deaths, said he would move a privilege motion against the minister “for giving false information”.
Even in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya defended the government on the issue of high death figures in the second wave and said it is states that are in charge of registering and providing death figures.
Concern over the deaths had been widespread with the virus ripping through the countryside this summer.
Images of mass graves on the sandbanks of Ganga in north India, and thousands of bodies floating down the river, has created a perception that the real figure of deaths in the second wave will never be known.
It is wrong to blame the Union ministry over death figures, said Mr Mandaviya.
“Whom are you blaming? You are blaming the Indian government, you are blaming Modi Ji. Who does the registration? The states do. Who decides the count? The states do. They have to do the registration, they have to put in the numbers. Here, no one has asked them to stop. Modi Ji said that if there is a backlog put that as well. There is no reason to hide it,” he said.