The statement made in Parliament on Tuesday by Minister of State for Health, Bharati Praveen Pawar that there were no deaths reported due to oxygen shortage during the second wave is completely fallacious and misleading against the stark reality of a catastrophic rise in fatalities primarily due to an oxygen crisis. Pawar stated, “All states and UTs report cases and deaths to the Health Ministry. No deaths due to lack of oxygen have been specifically reported,” he said in a written reply. The question before common citizens is: why was there no mention of oxygen-related deaths in reports to the Centre?
The defining moment of the second Covid wave was not only the ferocity of the virus but also the shortage of oxygen that left States jostling with each other over quotas as people lay on hospital beds gasping for breath. How can India forget the horror of April-May when families wailed as dear and near ones were breathing their last for lack of oxygen?
How can Goa forget the horror of ‘dark hours’ in May which saw 75 people die in 4 days at GMC gasping for oxygen as pressure dropped consistently past midnight leaving the medical fraternity helpless? How can one forget the rap the State government got from the High Court reminding that it is duty-bound to ensure life is not extinguished on account of inability to supply oxygen? How does the State fail to report a single such case when the health minister himself is on record linking the 'dark hour' deaths to oxygen shortage? How, when the dean himself has told the high court that the GMC was facing a shortage of 6.5 metric tonnes of oxygen per day.
India saw a massive shortage of medical oxygen and hospital beds at the peak of the second wave and many nations came forward to help amid desperate appeals on social media. Goa and many other states suffered the most, with the issue even drawing the attention of courts and world leaders. It would be delusive and a complete distortion of facts to state that there were no oxygen-related deaths in Goa and several other states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. A report like this not only makes a mockery of this entire battle against Covid but corrodes a huge chunk of trust in the system. This is where people begin to feel that the system is compromised and a sense of betrayal sets in.
If there is an endorsement by the states it is a crying shame because governments have only provided a fake sense of consolation to people by hiding the truth with the singular objective of shielding their political pride and egos. There is a need for introspection because the authenticity and honesty of data are under question. The bottom line is that there are fault lines within this Covid narrative leaving vast scope for manipulation, and that’s sad.