In the case of covid virus infection in India, records have been going on for a few days and with this, the number of people dying from the virus is increasing, but experts say that the official death toll does not tell the whole story.
Between 25 and 30 April, 22.40 lakh cases of corona virus were reported in India, which is the highest number of cases recorded by any country in a seven-day period since the onset of the epidemic.
According to the Health Ministry data, deaths due to corona doubled from 8,588 to 16,257 in the same week. In the last five days, more than three lakh cases are being reported in India every day. All the records of the infection are seen to be broken till now.
So far, over 1.76 crore people have been infected in India and more than 2 lakh people have died. These figures are staggering, but experts and those associated with epidemiology believe that the deaths caused by covid across the country, which have been recorded by the Department of Health, may actually be higher.
Tragedy is much bigger
“The death of the patients in the ambulance and the funeral of the dead outside the crematorium ghats suggests that the tragedy is much bigger,” a private doctor in Delhi said.
India’s relatively low death rate does not tell the whole story and in many states the count is being underestimated. Observers say that suspicious cases are not being added to the final count and the patient’s health status is being blamed for deaths from infections.
“There is a wide discrepancy between the official record of deaths due to covid-19 and the funeral records at the crematorium and cemetery,” says Gautam Menon, a professor of biology at Ashoka University. He says, “These differences show that the right number is being hidden.”
He says, “The actual number of deaths from covid-19 can be five to 10 times the official number. Also cases are being reported less. Also, the way the whole country has seen positive rates. It has been, the real picture of the epidemic may be far worse.”
Huge number of cremations than what being shown as official figure
According to a report by article 14, the crematoria in Gujrat’s Jamnagar witnesses a huge number of cremations than what is being shown as an official figure. Quoting Darshan Thakkar, who manages the Adarsh Hindu Smashan in Jamnagar, the report said people call either for a slot to cremate loved ones or with a request for beds in the city’s COVID facilities.
“My family has run this crematorium for four generations, and I don’t think we have ever seen so many bodies coming in,” Thakkar was quoted by the report as saying.
The crematorium was functioning beyond its daily capacity of 18-20 bodies, receiving at least 40 since the first week of April. “70% of them were Covid-19 deaths,” added Thakkar.
Murad Banaji, PhD, a senior lecturer in mathematics at Middlesex University in London said underreporting leads to a “data vacuum”, prompting policies without credible data. This, he said, was “extremely dangerous.”
“The problem with underreporting is that you can’t understand what’s happening, you also can’t predict what’s going to happen next,” said Banaji. “And you also can’t respond.”
On 23 April, the Sandesh newspaper reported that 765 had died in seven Gujarat cities. The official toll was 90. Earlier that month, its reporters, waiting outside the dedicated Covid-wing of the Ahmedabad civil hospital, counted 63 bodies carried out, while the government claimed a death toll of 20 for that day.
As per article 14 Sundaraman, former executive director of the National Health Systems Resource Centre, said that such an approach, in fact, went against the guidelines, which clearly state that deaths in infected patients with comorbidities must be reported as Covid-19 deaths.
“Under the rules, even if they (deaths) are suspected (to be from Covid-19), it has to be reported, but they don’t do that,” said Sundaraman. “They (Modi government) are trying to maintain a narrative of India’s success in controlling the pandemic.”
Gujarat government data
Gujarat government data do not reflect the procession of death that Maniyar witnessed. That night, the government bulletin, which supposedly includes all Covid-10 deaths till 5 pm, reported only 12 dead from the disease across Rajkot district.
In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, the New Indian Express found that 108 people had been cremated with Covid-19 protocols in 24 hours when the government claimed only 8 people had died.
Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh performed the last rites of 141 bodies under Covid-19 protocols in two cremation grounds and three cemeteries between 14 April and 28 April, the Dainik Bhaskar found. The official death count: 13.
In Ghaziabad, UP, crematoria that used to see 15 bodies a day are now seeing nearly 50, the Hindustan Times reported. Unable to cope, pyres are being constructed even on pavements.
In smaller cities like Surat, Kanpur and Ghaziabad, where a large number of covid deaths have been reported, mass cremations are being held in open places due to the lack of cremation space and deaths far exceeding the official figures.
Although many countries have failed to record the exact number of deaths due to covid, the problem has been further complicated by the lack of death registration system in many parts of India.
In the absence of a reliable death registration system, the government’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Program (IDSP) is collecting data from covid cases and covid deaths from testing laboratories and hospitals. However, a major drawback of IDSP is that it does not have any way to monitor deaths outside hospitals.
Covid Deaths can be 10 to 30 times higher
Vikas Bajpai of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum said, “In the current scenario, India’s growing official covid deaths represent only a small part, as corona investigations outside of big cities are declining. From the real case and the covid Deaths can be 10 to 30 times higher if nothing.”
The increase in the number of victims in India comes at a time when the country is in dire need of oxygen, medicine, hospital space and other medical equipment. Meanwhile, aid supplies from several countries, including the United States, have begun to arrive.