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Politics played over ‘oxygen shortage deaths’, 19 states said there were none: Govt tells LS

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya was replying to a question on the total number of Covid deaths reported in the country because of oxygen shortage during second wave. 

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New Delhi: Nineteen states/Union territories informed the government that there were no cases of Covid deaths because of oxygen shortage during the second wave, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told the Lok Sabha Friday.

After repeated communications to states to share information about Covid deaths because of oxygen shortage during the deadly second wave of the pandemic, only Punjab said there were four “suspected deaths” in the state, which they were investigating, the minister said.

Mandaviya was replying to a question on the total number of Covid deaths reported in the country because of oxygen shortage. 

During the second wave, the central government had come under attack from the Opposition for what they described as mismanagement of the pandemic. As the sheer number of infections overwhelmed India’s medical infrastructure, there were reports from across India of patients allegedly dying because they couldn’t get the requisite oxygen supply, or because hospitals ran out of the gas. 

According to Mandaviya, politics was played over Covid deaths due to oxygen shortage.

The 19 states/UTs are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Also Read: No deaths due to oxygen shortage reported by states, UTs in second wave, says Centre

‘No place for oxygen’

Mandaviya said “every state was asked to report deaths related to oxygen shortage”.

“We had written to all states asking for data. Even the Prime Minister said that there is no need to hide Covid death and states should inform. Between 13 July and 30 July, we had written letters thrice,” the health minister added.  

“But only Punjab gave in writing that there were four suspected deaths in the state and they are investigating,” he said. 

Making a special mention of Delhi, Mandaviya added, “Despite the Centre working to increase oxygen production in the country during the second wave, I also saw that tankers were moving around in Delhi, but there was no place to empty the oxygen. And there were other places which were in need of oxygen but did not get… politics was played over oxygen and the Centre was blamed.”   

The health minister then sought to inform the Lok Sabha about how the central government had worked to increase oxygen production in the country during the second wave.

“We arranged tankers to carry oxygen from one part of the country to another, we ordered special tankers from foreign countries, we used the Navy, we used Air Force planes to bring empty tankers immediately…. But we have seen how some states went to court and showed higher demand and got orders to get more tankers when others faced a crisis,” Mandaviya said.   

The health minister said that after the second wave, the Centre also gave two Covid packages of Rs 15,000 crore and Rs 23,000 crore to the states. Guidelines have since been given to the states on how to bolster their health infrastructure.  

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also Read: How medical oxygen is supplied to hospitals, and why India is facing an acute shortage


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