Even as governments and scientists prepare for a third wave of Covid-19 amid varying reports of its time of arrival, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Wednesday alleged that the Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya dismissed the need to form a panel to probe oxygen shortage-related deaths in the national capital as the Supreme Court-appointed task force is there to look into the matter.
He also said that the Centre was "running away from the investigation because the public will clearly see their negligence and fraud if the deaths are investigated".
Sisodia had written a letter to Mandaviya reiterating that an investigation committee would be necessary to correctly present the number of deaths due to oxygen shortage.
In the letter received from the Union health minister on Wednesday, he has claimed that a National Task Force was set up on May 6, after the directives of the Supreme Court, Sisodia said in an online briefing.
"The National Task Force has 12 pertinent Terms of Reference out of which five are for oxygen and due to this reason, setting up an investigation committee by the Delhi government is not required," he said quoting the letter from the Union minister.
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 the 12-point agenda as directed by the top court for the task force is related to supply of oxygen to hospitals and recommendations and management for the future, 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," he said.
"This is a huge fraud by the central government. The second reason given by the Union health minister is that since the Supreme Court in this order has directed that a sub-group be made for Delhi under the task force, and that an interim report has already been released, hence forming an investigation committee is not important," the deputy chief minister said.
Under the National Task Force of the Supreme Court, it is mentioned that the purpose of conducting audits is to ensure a measure of accountability for the proper distribution of oxygen supplies made available by the Centre for states and Union Territories, he said.
"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?"Sisodia asked.
The reason behind so many deaths is the "gross mismanagement" of oxygen by the Centre, he alleged.
"The reason behind such gross mismanagement is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s irresponsibility and his attention towards West Bengal elections, not our nation’s people," the deputy chief minister said.
(With inputs from PTI)