Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday claimed that no other government was as sensitive as the Modi dispensation about the death of doctors and others health workers at the frontlines of the Covid battle and held up as evidence how he had dissolved into tears at an event on “corona warriors”.
Vardhan had been confronted in the Rajya Sabha by Opposition leaders over the lack of data on doctors who had died fighting the pandemic. The Congress’s P.L. Punia pointed out that the Indian Medical Association had counted 382 deaths among doctors.
The IMA, the country’s largest body of doctors, earlier this week accused the Modi government of “hypocrisy” for describing healthcare workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus epidemic as “warriors” but not caring to count Covid-19 deaths among them.
Vardhan appeared to suggest that the Centre was in possession of data but had not released them.
“I had gone to AIIMS on August 14 for a blood donation programme organised by resident doctors. They had put up pictures of corona warriors. They made me stand in front of a picture and gave me a microphone. They had displayed the pictures with the India map in the background. The pictures were of doctors, nurses, health workers. Tears came to my eyes. The atmosphere was emotionally charged. They showed pictures of 45 such people,” the health minister said.
“Here questions have been raised about non-availability of data on the death of doctors. We know such unfortunate incidents happen every day. The states keep the data and share them with us whenever we want. Just because we are not saying the exact number, it does not mean we are not sensitive. I am convinced that no other government can be more sensitive on this issue than the Modi government,” Vardhan added.
During discussions on the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Act, Punia had pointed out: “The IMA report says 382 doctors have died of corona. On the other hand, the government says it has no data. Does the government want to say that no doctor has died? This data is only on doctors, not all corona warriors.”
Punia said the families of these doctors should have been given compensation. However, the bill has no provision for compensation in case of death of frontline pandemic workers.
The RJD’s Manoj Jha said: “The bill has spoken about the obligation of people during the epidemic but is silent on the government’s responsibility. While giving unlimited power to the government, the law should have ensured protection of human rights of common people.”