Centre never asked for data deaths due to oxygen shortage: Congress

Party general secretary K.C. Venugopal had moved a notice of breach of privilege against Minister of State for Health

The war of words on whether there were COVID-19 deaths due to oxygen shortage in the second wave of pandemic between the Opposition and the government continues. Pursuing his privilege motion against Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar, Rajya Sabha member and Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal, in a letter to Chairman Venkaiah Naidu, pointed out that the Centre never “categorically asked the States for reporting COVID-19 deaths due to oxygen shortage”.

Mr. Venugopal had moved a notice of breach of privilege against Ms. Pawar in July during the monsoon session on her written reply to a parliamentary question that there were “no deaths due to oxygen shortage reported by the States during the second wave of COVID-19”.

Minister’s letter to Naidu

In her response to Mr. Venugopal’s notice, Ms. Pawar, on September 10, in a letter to Mr. Naidu stated that she was “factually correct” and no “false statement had been laid on the table of the House”.

Mr. Venugopal said Ms. Pawar’s response was “misleading” since the “Centre never categorically asked the States for reporting COVID-19 deaths due to oxygen shortage”. He also pointed out a comment by Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma that appeared in the media saying the same thing.

The Minister, though, has said that MPs have relied on media reports as evidence and had not placed on record details of deaths reported by any State due to shortage of oxygen.

“The Minister has claimed and refuted a serious breach of privilege on the pretext ‘that the Members of Parliament have relied on media reports as evidence’. However, the Minister has not refused the reports quoted,” Mr. Venugopal noted.

The Minister, in her response, has said that the States were asked to send in reports according to globally accepted WHO and ICMR guidelines. But in her reply, she does not clearly answer the question on whether these guidelines also included questions on oxygen shortage.

Hitting out at the government, Mr. Venugopal observed that instead of taking suo motu cognisance of the incidents, the Minister was “deliberating misleading” and was “convolutedly trying to find an alibi”.

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