A day after the central government said in the Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs during the second COVID-19 wave, a huge political backlash has erupted on Wednesday.
Hitting out at the government, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said 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 per cent." she said.
"No initiative was shown in setting up oxygen plants in hospitals," she added.
Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said there have been many deaths due to oxygen shortage in Delhi and many other places across 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 the 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.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said all deaths reportedly caused due to shortage of oxygen during second wave of COVID-19 in the city will be probed if the Centre allows the Delhi government to form a panel.
He also charged the Centre with trying to "hide its fault" and alleged that its "mismanagement" and change in oxygen distribution policy after April 13 caused shortage of the life-saving gas in the hospitals across the country, leading to a "disaster".
In an online briefing, Sisodia accused the BJP-led Centre of not allowing the formation of a committee for probing deaths caused due to oxygen shortage during second wave of COVID-19 in Delhi.
"The government shamelessly told white lies in Parliament. There was utter chaos due to oxygen shortage after April 15 till May 5 and there is no big deal that people would die due to oxygen shortage," he said.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said people whose relatives died due to oxygen shortage during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic should "take the Union government to court".
"The Union government is running away from the truth. I seems it is the effect of Pegasus (Israeli spyware)," the Rajya Sabha member said sarcastically while talking to reporters.
The central government on Tuesday 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.
But there was an unprecedented surge in demand for medical oxygen during the second wave and it peaked at nearly 9,000 MT compared to 3,095 MT in the first wave following which the Centre had to step in to facilitate equitable distribution among the states, it said.