NEW DELHI: The Opposition on Tuesday accused the BJP-led government of ‘hiding’ the exact number of Covid deaths, saying the official figures reflect only a fraction of actual fatalities. The parties, led by the Congress, also panned the Centre for the inordinate delay in vaccinating people and demanded to know the preparedness for the third wave of the pandemic.
During the discussion on the management of Covid-19 in the Rajya Sabha, members demanded that the Centre provide correct data of Covid-19 deaths.
Alleging large-scale under-reporting of Covid deaths, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the Centre declared victory over Covid when people were still dying, and conducted huge election rallies.
“India has 6.38 lakh villages. If even five people die in a village due to Covid, it comes to 21 lakh and may go up to 52 lakh. But the government claims 4-5 lakh only,” he said.
TMC MP Dr Santanu Sen said if the Centre was so concerned about Covid-19 management, why did it decide to have an eightphase election in West Bengal.
In its response, the Centre said it compiles and puts out data sent by state governments and that it hasn’t asked any state to suppress Covid fatalities.
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said vaccine production is being ramped up to cover all eligible population in the country.
Later in the day, major opposition parties barring the Congress participated in the all-party meeting on the Covid situation.
Congress leader K C Venugopal said he will move a privilege notice against the minister as she has "misled and misguided" the House.
His remarks come after the government informed Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that no deaths due to lack of oxygen were specifically reported by states and UTs during the second wave.
"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.
Venugopal, on whose question the minister had replied in the House, said everyone has seen how people died due to a shortage of oxygen in several states, including the national capital.
"Actually, the minister misled the House and I will move a privilege against that minister definitely because the minister misguided and misled the House by giving false information," he told reporters.
Taking a swipe at the dispensation, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said there is an "acute shortage of sensitivity and truth" in the government.
"There was not just a shortage of oxygen. There was an acute shortage of sensitivity and truth then, it was there then and is there now too," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi.
Referring to an all-party meeting on Covid management called by the Centre where Prime Minister Narendra Modi also spoke, Venugopal said, "I don't know if the PM is also giving this type of answer in his presentation."
Upping the ante against the Centre, Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the government has perfected the art of facing every tragedy with "bluff and bluster".
"First, it was no shortage of vaccines. Just yesterday, Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh reported it has run out of vaccines. It is the same story in many vaccination centres," he tweeted.
"Now, it is 'no reports of deaths due to shortage of oxygen'. Read that carefully. Minister did not say there were 'no deaths'. He said 'no reports of deaths'. A blind and deaf government will not be able to 'see' or 'hear' the truth," Chidambaram added.
Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill said by claiming that no one died because of oxygen shortage, the government has "mocked and insulted" the deceased and their families.
"The BJP government's statement that no one died due to shortage of oxygen is even a bigger lie than China did not enter Indian territory," he told reporters here.
"The BJP's addiction to spreading fake news, peddling propaganda and turning a blind eye to the pain of people has reached dangerous proportions," he added.
Shergill said the government has also "insulted" the efforts of the judiciary which practically sat every day to do the job of the government to arrange oxygen.
"The BJP is 'Besharam Jhooti Party". By saying that no one died because of shortage of oxygen, the government has mocked and insulted those who died and their families," the Congress leader said.
He said the minister who made the statement should immediately apologise to the nation.
Meanwhile, the AAP government in Delhi on Tuesday accused the Centre of a "cover-up" since the outbreak of COVID-19 and not allowing it to "account for reasons behind deaths" during the pandemic.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia made the charges in a statement, after Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya rejected the allegation of under-reporting of Covid deaths and told Parliament that the Centre had not asked any state to show fewer numbers of deaths or less positive cases.
In the statement, Sisodia said there was a shortage of medical oxygen during the peak of the COVID-19 second wave.
"The central government has been running a cover-up since the very start of the pandemic. It is because of their flawed policy and implementation that the country had to endure an oxygen crisis during the toughest phase of the pandemic," he said.
The Delhi government "wanted to account for the reason behind deaths" during the pandemic, and had constituted a 'Death Audit Committee' to work towards that end, he said.
"The central government, however, did not want their fallacies to be unveiled so they did not let us go through with the committee as they knew what truth will come out in the open," he alleged.
Replying to the allegation of under-reporting of Covid deaths, Mandaviya said in Parliament that the central government only compiles and publishes data sent by states.
State governments register deaths.
"Our job is to publish that data and nothing else. We haven't told anyone to show fewer numbers (of deaths) or less positive cases. There's no reason for that," he said in his reply to a short duration discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic in Rajya Sabha.
The minister said the prime minister had repeatedly asked chief ministers to do large numbers of testing and record deaths.
"There is no reason to hide deaths but whom are you blaming? Who does registration? States do. Who decides on statistics? States do. Government of India compiles and publishes data received from the states," Mandaviya said.
Nobody died of oxygen shortage!
Believe it or not, not a single state reported Covid death due to oxygen shortage, Centre told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
However, there was unprecedented demand for medical oxygen during the 2nd wave. Peak demand touched 9,000 mt compared with 3,095 mt during the first wave.
A total of 188 crore Covid vaccine doses needed to inoculate 94 crore 18+ population.
Centre expects 187 crore doses will be available during January- December 2021.
56% of jabs given from May 1-July 15 were in rural vaccination centres.
Two out of three Indians may have been infected with Covid virus, says ICMR’s latest serosurvey.
Covishield: 11-12 crore doses per month.
Covaxin: 3.5 crore doses per month from August.
(With PTI Inputs)