'Centre Collects Data Sent by States': BJP Defends 'No Oxygen Death' Remark

From Rahul Gandhi to Satyendar Jain, the Centre's 'no oxygen death' remark irked many in the Opposition.

5 min read
'Centre Collects Data Sent by States': BJP Defends 'No Oxygen Death' Remark

In response to the Opposition's backlash over the government's comment that no deaths related to oxygen supply were reported by states during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra on Wednesday, 21 July, said that the Centre merely 'collects data' sent by states and does not 'generate' it.

According to the news agency ANI, Patra said that government's statement merely states that health is a state subject, while adding that none of the states had sent data regarding deaths arising out of shortfall in oxygen supply.

"Centre says that as no state/UT sent any data regarding deaths specifically due to shortage of oxygen, since none of them said that a death occurred in their state/UT due to shortage of oxygen, there is no data for that. Did the Centre generate this data? No."
Sambit Patra, BJP Spokesperson

Lack of Sensitivity: Rahul

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government's claim, that no deaths related to oxygen supply were reported by states during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, had drawn sharp criticism from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who said that the government's response reflected lack of sensitivity.

Taking to Twitter, Gandhi wrote, "It wasn't just the lack of oxygen. Severe lack of sensitivity and truth — it was then, still is today."

Gandhi's response came after the Minister of State for Health and Family Planning Bharati Pravin Pawar told the Rajya Sabha that 'no deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported by states/UTs'.

Pawar also added that detailed guidelines had been issued by the Union government to states, over reporting of COVID-19 deaths.

The government's remark comes after at least two hospitals in Delhi had said that the sickest of COVID-19 patients admitted in their hospitals had died as 'ventilators and BiPAP not working effectively' due to low oxygen supply.

Will BJP Deny COVID-19? Asks Delhi Health Minister

Echoing Rahul Gandhi, his sister and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra alleged that the deaths happened because the government had not made adequate arrangements for oxygen supply.

"Because the government did not make arrangements for tankers transporting oxygen… Ignoring the advice of the Empowered Group and the Parliamentary Committee, no arrangement was made to provide oxygen," she tweeted.

Congress leader KC Venugopal further said that the Health Minister had 'misled the House'.

"Yesterday, the Health Minister misled the House with false information. Karnataka Health Minister has admitted 3 deaths due to oxygen shortage. Haryana and Andhra Pradesh governments have also admitted that. I am going to give a privilege notice to Rajya Sabha Chairman on the reply," Venugopal told ANI.

Expressing shock at the Centre's remark, Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut wondered how the family members of those who died due to oxygen shortage would feel after hearing the government's response.

"I am speechless. What would have happened to the families of those who lost their loved ones to oxygen shortage after hearing this statement? A case should be filed against the govt," he told news agency ANI.

However, the Maharashtra Health Minister, Rajesh Tope, part of the Maha Vikas Agadhi (MVA) government of which the Shiv Sena is a partner, refuted Raut's statement.

"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," Tope told PTI.

The BJP, thereafter, attacked Raut for his statement.

"Mr Sanjay Raut I am aghast at the double-speak of double defaulters, Shiv Sena and Congress. Please provide the number of deaths in the state of Maharashtra due to oxygen shortage to the central government and also to the press. Same logic applies to Delhi state which was the epicenter," said Union Minister and BJP leader, Meenakshi Lekhi.

Delhi's Health Minister Satyendar Jain, however, spoke against the Union government's stance. Jain said that given the nature of the Union government's denial, 'it will soon say there was no COVID-19'.

"If there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen, then why were hospitals going to high court for shortages? This is completely false," he added.

Rajasthan Health Minister, Dr Raghu Sharma said, "There's been a shortage of oxygen. The chief minister sent three ministers to Delhi to demand a specific amount of oxygen during shortage. We needed 600 metric tons but we just received 400. Our management was good so we averted huge mishap."

M Subramanian, Health Minister of Tamil Nadu, which is now a DMK-ruled state, said that the state didn't face a critical oxygen shortage as Chief Minister Stalin worked on a 'war footing'.

"There are no deaths due to oxygen shortage in Tamil Nadu. The chief minister has worked on a war footing to prevent this. When we faced lack of oxygen, we came in touch with the Centre at once and procured oxygen from them. So, we didn't face big effects here."
M Subramianian, Health Minister at Tamil Nadu

Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel also responded to the comment.

"In Uttar Pradesh, it was said that action would be taken even if a hospital puts up a board stating oxygen shortage. The entire country knows what happened in Delhi, how people died gasping for breaths. Such statements are absurd & irresponsible," Baghel told ANI.


However, certain BJP-NDA ruled states echoed the Centre's statements.

Madhya Pradesh's Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang said, "No deaths took place due to lack of oxygen in our state. Union health minister stated the same in the Rajya Sabha. Even in Tamil Nadu, the health minister voiced the same opinion."

While Bihar's Health Minister Mangal Pandey accused the Congress of 'raising issues in the Parliament' instead of helping.

"During the second wave, we made arrangements while fighting pressures. We received the Centre's support and the oxygen allocation was increased. We facilitated oxygen in all hospitals. Congress doesn't want to help people. They only raise issues during Parliament."

"There have been no deaths due to lack of oxygen. We had completed all arrangements. CM facilitated oxygen through roads, railways & air. There were indeed problems over oxygen supply, but the govt promptly made arrangements," said Madhya Pradesh Health Minister Prabhuram Choudhary.


'Aghast', BJP Finds Refuge in Italian

Faced with massive criticism over its controversial remark, the ruling dispensation left no stone unturned in countering comments from opponents like Gandhi.

Responding to Rahul's critique of the Centre, Union Minister for Rural Development Giriraj Singh took a dig at the former Congress President in Italian.

"I would say about this prince: He lacked the brain then, he misses it now and he will miss it forever. These lists are compiled by the states. You can tell the states governed by your party to submit modified lists. Until then stop lying," Singh, BJP MP from Bihar's Begusarai, said.

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