Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
THE Narendra Modi government on Tuesday (20) told the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by the states and Union Territories during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that wreaked havoc in April and May.
However, it added that there was an unprecedented rise in demand for medical oxygen during the period and it peaked at nearly 9,000 metric tonnes (MT) compared to 3,095 MT witnessed during the first wave and the central government subsequently stepped in to facilitate equitable distribution among the states.
Responding to a question during the monsoon session of the parliament on whether a large number of Covid-19 patients died on roads and hospitals because of acute shortage of oxygen during the second wave, minister of state for health Bharati Praveen Pawar, who recently took charge, said that health is a state subject and the 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 said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha of which she is a member. “A dynamic and transparent framework for allocation of medical oxygen in consultation with states and UTs and all the stakeholders such as relevant ministries, manufacturers/suppliers of liquid oxygen, etc. was prepared,” the reply added.
Centre hasn’t told states to hide figures: Health minister
Indian health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, who recently succeeded Harsh Vardhan amid the opposition’s attacks over the government’s handling of the Covid situation, took on the criticism in the Rajya Sabha of which he is a member. He said the central government only compiles and publishes data that the states provide and added that the Centre never asked any state to show less numbers (of deaths) of less positive cases.
“Centre compiles & publishes the data sent in by state governments. Our work is to publish that data, & nothing else. We haven’t told anyone to show less numbers (of deaths) or less positive cases. There’s no reason for that. Prime Minister had said the same in meetings with CMs,” Mandaviya said.
The health minister also said that he was a concerned father of an intern daughter who was on duty in a Covid ward during the pandemic.
“They say why did we do ‘thaali-taali‘ (banging of utensils that prime minister Modi asked the countrymen last year to encourage the frontline workers)? We did it to encourage Corona warriors. We did it for the policemen standing on the roads for our protection, we did it in honour of the healthcare staff – from the lowest to the highest level. Before being a minister, I’m a father. My daughter worked as an intern doctor in Covid ward. She told me that she would work in that ward itself and she continued. At that time I realised the importance of ‘thaali-taali’, it gave us courage,” Mandaviya said.
“When there’s need to work together & implementation has to be done by the states, at that time we never said that this state failed or that state didn’t do this. I don’t want to do politics but many states have 10-15 lakh doses of vaccines with them, I have data,” the minister said.
He also lashed out at the opponent parties accusing them of playing politics over the pandemic. “Our government has always said that this crisis shouldn’t become a reason for politics. There shouldn’t be politics in this crisis…PM Modi has said that when 130 cr people of India take one step forward, the country can move forward by 130 cr steps,” he said.