In a shocking report Gujarati newspaper Divya Bhaskar on Friday revealed the extent of underreporting of Covid-19 deaths by the state government amid the devastating second wave of the pandemic.
The report, translated into English by journalist Deepak Patel on Twitter, said that Gujarat had issued 1.23 lakh death certificates between March 1 and May 10, compared to 58,000 certificates issued in the same period last year.
Patel, then, highlighted district-wise numbers of death certificates issued in the March 1 to May 10 period in 2021, which were much higher than the official Covid-19 toll.
“Ahmedabad city issued 7,786 death certificates in the 71-day period last year,” Patel wrote.
“It issued 13,593 death certificates in the 71-day period of 2021. Note: Gujarat government’s data says 2,126 people died of Covid in Ahmedabad city in the 71-day period of 2021.”
In Rajkot, 10,878 death certificates were issued in the 71-day period in 2021. However, according to government data, only 288 died due to the coronavirus during that time, Divya Bhaskar reported.
A day after media reports on Gujarat undercounting Covid deaths emerged, the state’s additional chief secretary, Pankaj Kumar, told reporters on Saturday that the move of using death certificates to ascertain the number of fatalities suffers from inaccuracies and should be discarded.
“There has been a trend where death certificates’ figures are being used to ascertain figures of death.
Recently such a report published by one of the newspapers where they’ve utilised analysis to establish suppression of death figures on part of the government,” Kumar said, as quoted by Local media .
Gujarati newspaper published a report on Friday of Gujarat covid deaths was compiled on the basis of data collected from municipal authorities of 33 districts and 8 major cities.
This report follows the precedent set by many other Gujarati newspapers which have claimed Covid-19 fatalities were being consistently underreported in the state.
“We have been asked to not write Covid as the cause of deathinstead write ‘death by illness’ everywhere. You know why they are doing it, don’t ask me why,” the publication quoted a worker at the Ellisbridge crematorium as saying.
Similar discrepancies have cropped up in other news reports, prompting outrage on social media.
“While Gujarat officially reported 78 Covid-caused deaths on Friday (17th April), The Hindu reported that 689 bodies were cremated in 7 cities alone following the COVID-19 protocol. Covid-caused deaths are being misreported as caused by cardiac arrest, chronic diabetes etc,” alleged Congress leader P Chidambaram recently.
Number of bodies disposed using COVID-19 protocols is nine times official death count. Probably fudging testing data also,” alleged activist and former Amnesty India head Aakar Patel citing another news report.
As the controversy gains momentum, the Gujarat High Court had recently urged the state government to be transparent about the COVID-19 situation in the country.
“The state has nothing to gain by hiding the real picture and hence suppression and concealment of accurate data would generate more serious problems including fear, loss of trust, panic among the public at large,” Times of India quoted the HC as saying.