Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Friday asked the Opposition to stop playing politics over oxygen shortage during the second wave of COVID-19 infections and take note of the Centre's efforts to ramp up its production to meet the surge in demand.
Responding to queries in Lok Sabha during Question Hour, he said the Union government made "all possible efforts" to ensure the availability of oxygen and increased its production following a rise in demand during the second wave of the pandemic.
"Sadly, even in such a situation, many people did not refrain from playing politics... I appeal, take note of our honest efforts. This is not a subject of politics," he said in reply to a question on the issue raised by Congress MP Suresh Dhanorkar.
Mandaviya also hit out at the Opposition over claims about deaths due to oxygen shortage during that period, saying the Centre sought from states data on the matter and only the Punjab government replied that there were four suspected cases of such deaths and a probe into them was underway.
"I want to say that Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) had said at the chief ministers' meeting that there was no need to hide the number of deaths due to shortage of oxygen shortage. It (numbers) should be reported," the health minister said.
Addressing a press conference this evening, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi accused the central government of not properly reporting Covid deaths.
"Millions of people have died of Covid. You don't report them as Covid deaths. You report them as something else ... So, you simply do not want to accept that people have died. When it is not their fault, it is not the fault of the people, who died in coronavirus, that you did not provide them oxygen cylinders you did not giv them hospital beds ...," he said.
The Centre wrote to states thrice, requesting them to provide data on the number of people who died due to shortage of oxygen, Mandaviya said.
In a written reply in the lower house, Mandaviya said the government had sought data from states and union territories on deaths of Covid patients due to oxygen shortage during the second wave and only Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh have responded.
Punjab sent an email saying that four deaths suspected to be due to lack of oxygen have been reported in a private hospital in Amritsar district, he informed the House.
He was responding to a question on whether the government had sought report or data from states and union territories regarding deaths of Covid patients due to oxygen shortage in various hospitals across the country during the second wave.
"Request for data on the subject was emailed to all states and UTs including the last email sent on November 29, 2021. In response, only two states (Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh) have responded," he said.
He also said that detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by Union Health Ministry to all states and union territories and accordingly, they report cases and deaths to the ministry on a regular basis.
The ICMR on May 10, 2020 issued 'Guidance for appropriate recording of COVID19 related deaths in India'.
The ministry on October 9, 2020 had conveyed to states and union territories, WHO and ICMR guidelines on correct recording of COVID-19 related deaths in accordance with globally accepted ICD-10 classification and also urged states to undertake periodic death audits with the aim to improve quality of healthcare services by suitable corrective measures, Mandaviya said.
The states and union territories were also provided with a proforma for undertaking death audits in this regard.