The Uttar Pradesh government on Thursday claimed that no deaths had been reported in the state because of lack of oxygen during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic between April and May, reported PTI.

Health Minister Jai Pratap Singh told the state Legislative Council that death certificates of none of the 22,915 coronavirus victims in the stated mentioned oxygen shortage as the cause.

To this, Congress leader Deepak Singh asked the state government whether it had information about deaths due to oxygen shortage that have been flagged by its own ministers.

“Many ministers wrote letters saying deaths are taking place due to lack of oxygen in the state,” Singh asked during the Question Hour in the House, reported PTI. “Apart from this, many MPs had also made such complaints. Many incidents of deaths due to lack of oxygen had come to light. Is there any information with the government about these deaths in the entire state.”

The Congress leader also said that dead bodies of suspected Covid-19 patients were seen along the banks and flowing in the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh during the peak of the second wave of the pandemic between April and May.

Several bodies suspected to be of Covid-19 patients that were buried in the sandbanks of the Ganga river in the state’s Prayagraj district had also floated up in June as the water level rose due to monsoon rains.

In Agra district, 16 patients had died in April after a private hospital shut off oxygen supply as part of a mock drill. The state government had also ordered an inquiry in the case. In a purported video, the owner of the hospital had been heard saying that the mock drill was done to check who would survive if the hospital’s oxygen supply ran out.

During the Legislative Council session on Thursday, Leader of the House Dinesh Sharma said that members of the Opposition should acknowledge that a high number of fatalities were avoided because of the state government’s “promptness”, according to PTI.

The Uttar Pradesh government’s claim of nobody dying due to lack of oxygen is on the lines of the central government which has also repeatedly refuted shortage of the gas had caused deaths in the country.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament on December 3 that only Punjab had flagged deaths due to the shortage of oxygen. The Centre has also sought to downplay the oxygen crisis on previous occasions that hit India during the devastating second wave of Covid-19.

India’s Covid-19 crisis had reached horrific proportions during the second wave, with hospitals being forced turn away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds.

The situation was so grave that hospitals sent out SOS messages about their diminishing oxygen stocks and the attendants of patients waited in long queues in the heat to get oxygen cylinders filled.

The Allahabad High Court had on May 4 said that the death of coronavirus patients due to shortages of oxygen at hospitals was a “criminal act” and “not less than a genocide”. The court had taken up a suo motu case on Uttar Pradesh’s handling of the pandemic and made the observations based on news reports and social media posts about death of Covid-19 patients in Lucknow and Meerut.

In April, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the Centre and sought a “national plan” on oxygen and drug supply to coronavirus patients.