Chhattisgarh Health Minister T S Singh Deo on Friday accused the Centre of misleading the country with its statement that states had not reported any data on deaths caused due to lack of oxygen during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic across the country. He said that the Central government had not demanded any figures from state governments regarding these deaths so far.
Maintaining that Chhattisgarh was an oxygen-surplus state, the minister added that the state government is conducting a re-audit of deaths recorded during the second wave to ascertain if any of the patients succumbed due to a shortage of medical oxygen.
On July 20, the Central government said in the Rajya Sabha that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs during the second wave of Covid-19, triggering criticism from opposition parties. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Singh Deo said: “The government of India has been given constant data from the state government. They however never asked, not even as a separate column on the forms that the states had to fill, of deaths resulting due to Oxygen shortage. Then making a statement that the state governments didn’t provide them with enough data is willfully an attempt to cover up their mismanagement.”
“Chhattisgarh is an oxygen-surplus state, so we haven’t recorded any oxygen shortage related death. But instead of being stubborn, we are willing to listen to the people and other stakeholders. We have already been conducting an audit of Covid-19-related deaths in the state, to ensure that all possibilities are tracked and checked for,” said the minister. He added, “We are expanding our public audit to get all information on any death in hospitals or outside due to a shortage of oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19 in the state.”
The minister requested NGOs, members of civil society and journalists of the state to inform the government if they have come across the death of any coronavirus patient due to medical oxygen shortage. “Transparency is a core of a democratically-elected government and we shall follow the Congress’s commitment towards transparency,” he said.
The state has no record of deaths due to lack of oxygen either in government or private hospitals, according to the health department. “Complaints were received sporadically, but they were unsubstantiated. We will audit deaths again to dispel all doubts,” Singh Deo added.
Singh Deo urged the Centre to conduct a similar audit of deaths across the country. “If the government at the Centre can accuse Chhattisgarh for vaccine wastage with no proof, they should also be able to deduce how many deaths had occurred by sending their teams across the country,” he said.
Singh Deo pointed out that the oxygen production capacity of the state was 388.87 metric tonnes, while the peak consumption reported was 180 MT on April 26.
The second wave of coronavirus started in the state in mid-March. Since March 15 and till July 22, as many as 9,617 people have died due to the viral infection in the state, as per official figures.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines