Opposition parties step up attack on Centre
New Delhi/Mumbai: Opposition parties on Wednesday stepped up attack on the Centre over its statement that no deaths due to oxygen shortage were reported by states and UTs during the second COVID-19 wave, alleging it was trying to hide its mistakes by "lying", but the BJP accused them of doing politics on the issue and pointed out their own governments in states did not report such fatalities.
Amid the row, Maharashtra, where the Congress, Shiv Sena and the NCP are in power, and BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat maintained that there were no deaths due to oxygen shortage in these states.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that the fatalities happened because the government increased oxygen exports in the pandemic year and did not arrange tankers to transport it.
"'No death due to lack of oxygen': Central Government. The deaths happened because -- in the pandemic year, the government increased oxygen exports by about 700 percent," she tweeted.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said people whose relatives died due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic should "take the Union government to court". "Many people have died due to oxygen shortage in several states. Those whose relatives (COVID-19 patients) died due to oxygen shortage should take the Union government to court," he said.
"The Union government is running away from the truth. It seems it is the effect of Pegasus (Israeli spyware), the Rajya Sabha member said sarcastically, referring to the phone-tapping allegations.
However, the Maharashtra government, of which Shiv Sena is a part, said the state never reported any death due to a shortage of oxygen during the second wave of COVID-19.
"We never said people died due to oxygen shortage in the state. Many of them had issues like co-morbidities and other illnesses. No death has taken place due to the shortage of oxygen, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope told reporters while replying to a query.
Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Prabhuram Choudhary too said that there has been no death on account of a shortage of medical oxygen in the BJP-ruled state.
There was no death due to shortage of oxygen It is true that there were problems with the availability of oxygen, but the state government ensured supply, he told reporters.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also said there was no such death in the state.
Countering the opposition's allegations, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra noted that the central government's reply was based on the figures provided by states and UTs as health is a state subject.
No state sent any data about patients dying due to oxygen shortage, he asserted and accused opposition leaders, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, of doing politics on the matter.
He said the states where these parties are in power have claimed that no one died there due to lack of oxygen.
The opposition-ruled states had spoken about patients dying due to the oxygen crisis when the second wave was peaking as they wanted to target the Modi government but have taken a different stand in writing and their submission to courts, he said, adding that it shows they want to politicise the whole issue.
The Maharashtra government also told Bombay High Court that no one died due to the oxygen shortage and Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo has also made similar claims, the BJP spokesperson said. Rahul Gandhi should speak to the chief ministers in the states where his party is in power instead of "lying" on Twitter and spreading confusion, he said.
On Tuesday, responding to a question on whether a large number of COVID-19 patients died on roads and in hospitals due to acute shortage of oxygen in the second wave, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar in a written reply in Rajya Sabha had said that health is a state subject and states and UTs regularly report the number of cases and deaths to the Centre.