As India's COVID-19 situation grows progressively grimmer, the country on Tuesday reported it's highest ever single day death toll of 1,761. If a recent report by medical journal Lancet is anything to go by, the numbers are only going to soar higher in the weeks to come. But this situation, problematic as it is, may not be the entire picture.
Over the last few days, there have been allegations levelled against several states of fudging data to make the pandemic situation appear rosier than it really is. In Gujarat, countless news reports have emerged contending that the data is being doctored and the cause of death modified. According to a report by The Print, the western state has seen a surge in death due to "illness" even as the COVID-19 toll remains low. The publication spoke to individuals working with cremation grounds to confirm their supposition.
"We have been asked to not write Covid as the cause of death … instead 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.