In the matter of investigating deaths due to oxygen shortage in Delhi, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had previously written a letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya reiterating that an investigation committee would be necessary to correctly present the number of deaths due to oxygen shortage. Today, Dy. CM Manish Sisodia received a response in form of a letter from Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya who has unhesitatingly dismissed the need for instituting an investigation committee to assess the number of deaths due to oxygen shortage in Delhi. He said that the Central Government’s fraud on deaths due to lack of oxygen has come out in the open, and the Union Health Minister is presenting false arguments to avoid investigation; and that by saying that there is no need for a committee to investigate deaths due to oxygen shortage as the task force and subgroup constituted by the Supreme Court is investigating it, the Union Health Minister is lying shamelessly. He further said that the centre is running away from investigation because the public will clearly see their negligence and fraud if the deaths are investigated. He reinforced that thousands of people lost their lives due to the negligence of the Centre and its gross mismanagement of oxygen and PM Modi was busy campaigning in Bengal when he should have been arranging oxygen so he can’t run away from the responsibility now.
Dy. CM Manish Sisodia said that it is a matter of shame that in the 21st century, the Central Government is saying that there should be no investigation into the number of people who died due to lack of oxygen in our nation.
Shri Sisodia said, “The Union Health Minister has claimed that a National Task Force was set-up on 6 May 2021 after the directives of the Supreme Court; the National Task force has 12 pertinent Terms of Reference out of which 5 are for oxygen and due to this reason, setting up an investigation committee by the Delhi Government is not required. The Union Health Minister claims that the mandate given by the Supreme Court for the National Task Force is related to deaths occurring due to lack of oxygen, but in fact the 12 point agenda items as directed by the Supreme Court in the National Task Force are related to supply of oxygen to hospitals and recommendations and management for the future.”
The terms of reference of the National Task Force are:
(i) Assess and make recommendations for the entire country based on the need for, availability and distribution of medical oxygen;
(ii) Formulate and devise the methodology for the allocation of medical oxygen to the States and UTs on a scientific, rational and equitable basis;
(iii) Make recommendations on augmenting the available supplies of oxygen based on present and projected demands likely during the pandemic;
(iv) Make recommendations for the periodical review and revision of allocations based on the stage and impact of the pandemic;
(v) Facilitate audits by sub-groups within each State and UT inter alia for determining:
1. (a) whether the supplies allocated by the Union Government reach the concerned State/UT;
2. (b) the efficacy of the distribution networks in distributing supplies meant for hospitals, health care institutions and others;
3. (c) whether the available stocks are being distributed on the basis of an effective, transparent and professional mechanism; and
4. (d) accountability in regard to the utilisation of the supplies of oxygen allocated to each State/UT;
(vi) Review and suggest measures necessary for ensuring the availability of essential drugs and medicines;
(vii) Plan and adopt remedial measures for ensuring preparedness to meet present and future emergencies which may arise during the pandemic;
(viii) Facilitate the use of technology to ensure that the available manpower is optimised for implementing innovative solutions particularly in order to
provide an outreach of expert medical care to rural areas;
(ix) Suggest measures to augment the availability of trained doctors, nurses and para-medical staff including by the creation of suitable incentives;
(x) Promote evidence based research to enhance effective responses to the pandemic;
(xi) Facilitate the sharing of best practices across the nation to promote knowledge about the management of the pandemic and treatment of cases; and
(xii) Generally, to make recommendations in regard to other issues of pressing national concern to find effective responses to the pandemic.
Shri Sisodia said, “When it has not been mentioned anywhere in the mandate of the Task Force to investigate the deaths occurred due to oxygen shortage, the Union Health Minister is claiming that there is no need to set up an investigation committee to assess deaths due to oxygen shortage. This is a huge fraud by the Central Government. The second reason given by Union Health Minister is that since Supreme Court in this order has directed that a subgroup be made for Delhi under the Task Force, and that an interim report has already been released and hence, forming an investigation committee is not important.”
Under the Task Force of the Supreme Court, it is mentioned that the purpose of conducting audits under item (v) of paragraph 24 is to ensure a measure of accountability for the proper distribution of oxygen supplies made available by the Union Government to the States/UTs. For the purpose of facilitating the audits under item (v) of paragraph 24 above, the Task Force will constitute sub-groups/committees for each State/UT comprising:
1. (i) An officer of the State/UT Government not below the rank of Secretary to the State Government;
2. (ii) An officer of the Union Government not below the rank of Additional/Joint Secretary;
3. (iii) Two medical doctors in the State/UT concerned including at least one with administrative experience of managing the medical facilities of a hospital; and
4. (iv) A representative from the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO).
Shri Sisodia said, “It is henceforth proved that both of these reasons mentioned by the Central Government are fraud. The Union Health Minister is defrauding us by lying using false interpretations of the National Task Force. I want to ask the Union Minister that if the Supreme Court only had to investigate the deaths that occurred due to oxygen shortage, then why did the Central Government in the first place ask states to declare the number of deaths? What sort of drama is the Central Government doing? The reason behind so many deaths is the gross mismanagement of oxygen by the Central Government. The reason behind such gross mismanagement is PM Modi’s irresponsibility and his attention towards West Bengal elections, not our nation’s people.”
Dy. CM Manish Sisodia further added that when the people of the nation want to know how many deaths occurred due to oxygen shortage in the second wave of COVID-19 and when a State is standing up to investigate the deaths in a proper manner, then why is the Central Government dismissing it? It is doing so because of the gross mismanagement of oxygen by the Central Government. The Central Government wants to hide its fraud during the oxygen crisis and now, which is why they are lying so grossly. I want to ask the Union Health Minister why he has claimed that the Task Force will assess oxygen related deaths when it is not even in their mandate? The Supreme Court has not called any doctor to ask the number of deaths because it is not in their mandate.
Dy. CM Manish Sisodia implored the Central Government to let the Delhi Government investigate deaths in a proper manner and take responsibility for the deaths that occurred due to their gross mismanagement.