The Delhi government on Friday alleged that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has rejected a proposal to set up an expert committee to find out the number of deaths caused in the city due to lack of medical oxygen during the second wave of coronavirus.
However, soon after Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia leveled the allegation, Baijal’s office reportedly denied the claim calling it “misleading”, according to the Hindustan Times.
Earlier in June too, Baijal had denied permission to a Delhi government proposal for formation of an expert committee on the matter.
In a press briefing on Friday, Sisodia said that the Delhi government had once again sent a proposal earlier this week, but Baijal did not give his nod for the committee.
“The Centre is saying states should submit reports on how many deaths occurred due to lack of oxygen, but the LG is not allowing an investigation,” Sisodia said. “This means the Centre wants states to declare that there were no deaths due to lack of oxygen. But to say this will be a big lie to those who have lost their loved ones.”
Meanwhile, an unidentified official in Baijal’s office dismissed Sisodia’s claims.
“What has been said earlier on July 6 and repeated on August 19 is that a high level committee constituted as per Supreme Court directions, where apart from senior and reputed doctors, the additional chief secretary (health), the government of national capital territory of Delhi is also a member, is already looking into the matter,” the official said, according to the Hindustan Times.
Setting up another committee for the same purpose would create confusion, the official reportedly said.
The Supreme Court-appointed committee that the official reportedly referred to has also been a flashpoint between the Centre and the Delhi government.
On June 25, media reports cited an “interim report” by the panel which purportedly mentioned that the Delhi government inflated its demand for oxygen “by four times” during the second wave. The supply of excess oxygen to Delhi could have triggered a shortage in 12 other states with high caseloads, the interim report said, according to the media reports.
In a press briefing soon after, Sisodia accused denied the claim and said that the panel had not approved any such report. He challenged Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to show a signed and approved copy of the purported report.
Oxygen crisis in Delhi and the SC-appointed panel
During the second wave of the pandemic, multiple hospitals in the city were forced to approach courts to ensure they received supplies of medical oxygen to save lives of Covid-19 patients.
On April 30, as many as 12 patients, including a senior doctor, had died at Batra Hospital due to oxygen shortage. On April 24, at least 20 coronavirus patients in Delhi died after the hospital treating them ran out of oxygen.
While hearing a case on allocation of oxygen, the Supreme Court on May 7, warned the Centre that it will be compelled to take action if authorities do not provide 700 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to Delhi every day to help the city meet its demands to treat Covid-19 patients.
In the course of hearing the same matter, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah set up a panel comprising of All India Institute of Medical Sciences chief Randeep Guleria, Max Healthcare Director Sandeep Buddhiraja, Delhi Principal Home Secretary Bhupinder Bhalla, among others, to carry out an audit of supply, distribution and utilisation of oxygen supply in the national capital.