Change in oxygen distribution policy by Centre led to disaster during second wave of COVID: Sisodia

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New Delhi, Jul 21 (PTI) Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday said the city government did not have data on deaths due to lack of oxygen during the second wave of COVID-19 as the Centre has not given nod to its panel meant to probe such fatalities.

His reaction came as a blame game erupted between the BJP and the opposition parties after the Centre on Tuesday informed Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs during the second COVID-19 wave.

Addressing a press conference, Sisodia 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 the shortage of oxygen in the hospitals across the country, leading to a 'disaster'.

'We all saw what happened in April-May. Media has reported on it, and I was getting messages from officials at hospitals and people were requesting for help, complaining about lack of oxygen,' he said.

'But, now the central government has shamelessly lied in Parliament. There was utter chaos due to oxygen shortage from April 15 till May 5, and people would have died due to oxygen shortage,' he alleged.

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.

'Detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by the Union Health Ministry to all states and UTs.

'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 had said.

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, the minister said.

The opposition parties have questioned the statement and accused the Centre of insensitivity.

Sisodia alleged that the Centre is trying to hide its mistakes.

'It changed its oxygen distribution policy after April 13 which led to a total disaster. The Centre will have to take responsibility for this,” the AAP leader told reporters.

Sisodia said if the Centre gives its nod to the inquiry committee set up by the Delhi government, then all deaths reportedly caused due to shortage of oxygen during the second wave of COVID-19 in the city will be independently probed.

“The central government is repeatedly lying by saying that states have not given them any figures. But, when you will not allow the states to investigate the deaths due to lack of oxygen, where will the figures come from,' he asked.

He challenged the central government, saying if they want the reported deaths due to lack of oxygen to be investigated, then the inquiry committee constituted by the Delhi government should be allowed to do its work.

'This committee will independently investigate every death caused due to lack of oxygen and will keep the data in the public domain. But, Modi ji is afraid.

'They (Centre) are not allowing the committee to work as the truth of the insensitivity and mismanagement of the central government will come out in front of the whole nation,' Sisodia alleged.

The four-member panel comprising medical experts was set up in June and the files were sent to the Delhi Lt Governor for approval.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader said the Kejriwal government, by taking responsibility, tried to form a committee to audit all the deaths that happened reportedly due to oxygen shortage but the Centre 'prevented' it through the LG.

The 'imprudent' policy of the central government has put the whole country in a difficult situation, and even during this crisis, it 'did not stop doing dirty politics, and kept troubling the states where there is no BJP-led government,' Sisodia alleged.

He also hit out at BJP's senior leader and spokesperson Sambit Patra, alleging he 'hurled abuses at Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, instead of 'taking responsibility' for the deaths.

Patra had accused opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, of doing politics on the matter, and said the states where their parties are in power have claimed that no one died there due to lack of oxygen. PTI KND/VIT RT RT

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