Updated: September 9, 2021 7:23:09 am
THE JHARKHAND government has told the assembly that no death of journalist due to Covid-19 has been reported in the state, a claim contested by a recognised journalists’ association that has compiled a list of more than 30 such deaths. It also said no death due to oxygen shortage has been reported in the state.
In a written reply to a question by his party colleague and Congress MLA Bandhu Tirkey on Tuesday, state Health Minister Banna Gupta said: “Regarding the death of journalists, there has been no information from any source nor has there been any death reported from the districts’ disaster- management team.” He also said that there was no provision to pay compensation in such deaths.
Jharkhand Journalists Association president Shahnawaz Hassan, however, told The Indian Express, “At least 30 journalists have died [of Covid] in Jharkhand and we had written to the Chief Minister and state Public Relations Department, giving the details and the district-wise break-up of the deaths.”
“However, the Health Minister has now taken a u-turn, and I don’t understand why,” said Hassan, adding that several states such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have given compensation to family members of journalists who died in their states.
Among those in the list compiled by journalists’ association is Sunil Paswan, a 35-year-old journalist in Hazaribagh, who died on May 1 in a government hospital. Shortly after his death, Paswan’s family had shared with The Indian Express his medical records, issued by Hazaribagh Medical College Hospital, which diagnosed him as Covid positive.
In reply to a separate question in the assembly, by BJP MLA Amar Kumar Bauri, the state Health Department said: “No one died in Jharkhand due to shortage of oxygen.” This was in contradiction to what the Health Minister had claimed earlier.
In July, Gupta had told reporters that many people in the country, including Jharkhand, had died of oxygen shortage.
On Tuesday, he sought to distance himself from his department’s reply in the assembly. He said it was the ICMR, which made guidelines on what should be considered an oxygen shortage death. When asked of his previous remarks, he told reporters: “I am not denying. Lakhs of people died due to shortage of oxygen in the country.”
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