Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia on Friday, 20 August, said in a tweet that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal had once again rejected Delhi government’s proposal to form a committee to investigate the number of deaths caused due to oxygen shortage in the national capital.
Sisodia said in a press conference on Friday, “Delhi’s second wave in April-May caused a massive shortage of oxygen. During that time, doctors, relatives of patients, journalists, called out the oxygen crisis. Many people died due to oxygen shortage and that can’t be denied.”
Sisodia added that the government, however, wants to hide the matter.
This struggle comes a month after the central government had informed Rajya Sabha on 20 July, that "no death due to lack of oxygen was specifically reported by states and Union Territories during the second COVID-19 wave".
The statement was made despite the fact that many hospitals, including prominent ones in the National Capital, had put out SOS calls for oxygen as patients with severe symptoms gasped for breath on a dwindling supply.
A number of hospitals were even compelled to turn patients away due to the oxygen crisis and some, across the country, even reported deaths due to the paucity.
Another Committee Will Only Create Confusion: Government
Refuting Sisodia's claims, government sources said, "The statements made by the deputy CM are misleading, to say the least. Neither the LG nor the Government of India has said that deaths due to oxygen shortage should not be probed," news agency ANI reported
The central government further explained, "What had been said earlier on 6 July and repeated again on 19 August is that a high-level committee constituted as per SC directions, wherein, apart from senior and reputed doctors, the ACS (Health), GNCTD is also a member, is already looking into the matter."
The high-level committee has submitted its interim report and is working on the final report, the Centre informed.
The sources added that the LG as well as Union health minister have reiterated that "the said committee should be allowed to do its work. Setting up of another committee for the same purpose will only create confusion".
Ten days ago, Sisodia had alleged that the Central government had not even asked for data on the deaths that occurred due to oxygen shortage during the second wave.
To this, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya responded on Twitter, attaching a copy of an email sent to the Delhi government for the same.
"Respected Sisodia ji, here is the copy of the mail sent by my ministry to the Delhi government on 26 July. It's not too late yet! By August 13 you can send the data so that we can answer the question in the Parliament. After reviewing with your officers, please send the necessary data as soon as possible," Mandaviya wrote in Hindi.
Sisodia had also claimed, "The Delhi government had constituted an inquiry committee long back to audit the deaths due to lack of oxygen in Delhi, but it was rejected by the Lieutenant Governor at the behest of the central government.”
At Friday's press conference, he said, “The central government wants states to write that there were no deaths caused due to the shortage of oxygen," and claimed that the central government is to be blamed for the mismanagement of oxygen.
Slamming the government, Sisodia said in Hindi, “In this 21st century people died due to oxygen shortage and you don’t want us to investigate. Why shouldn’t there be an investigation? The central government should take responsibility for the oxygen shortage and in the coming future.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government approved the 'Medical Oxygen Production Promotion Policy of Delhi - 2021'. The policy has been introduced "to make Delhi self-reliant in production of Medical Oxygen to meet with any such crisis/medical emergency in future”, ANI reported.
(With inputs from ANI)