Numbers game: Politics peaks over fatality figures in Delhi

On May 13, the health bulletin shared by the Delhi government said the Capital had reported 106 Covid-19 deaths including 20 in the last 24 hours. The same day, the cremation and burial grounds under the municipal corporations had recorded 409 funerals across four cremation/burial grounds in accordance with the standard operating procedure (SOP) for coronavirus patients.

Next day, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain told the media that nine deaths had taken place in last 24 hours due to the virus. The same day the bulletin had no new death even as it put the total deaths so far at 115, nine more than the previous day. On Friday, the health bulletin has again no new deaths but the toll was 123. The official said the new deaths were adjusted from the old reports.

409 – Funerals as per the standard operating procedure (SOP) for coronavirus patients

123 deaths, says Delhi govt

Over the past few days, there has been a mismatch between the number of coronavirus-related deaths reported by the Delhi government and the number of people cremated or buried across the capital as per Covid protocols sparking political bickering among the ruling AAP, the BJP and the Congress. Worse, the number of deaths procured from many hospitals in the Capital is way more than what the Delhi government has been sharing.

The mismatch was first reported on May 7 when as per the numbers shared by LNJP Hospital, RML Hospital, Lady Hardinge Medical College and the Delhi and Jhajjar centres of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), 116 people had died due to coronavirus pandemic till that day. This, however, was way less than the total number of deaths in the Capital released by the Delhi government till May 7.

According to the health bulletin, overall 66 people had died in Delhi till May 7 due to coronavirus. This, the bulletin said, included 33 deaths in the abovementioned hospitals.

Delhi government’s numbers do not match with the number of people cremated or buried across the Capital according to SOP for Covid-19 as maintained by the civic bodies.

As on May 13, as against 106 deaths released by the Delhi government, 409 people were either cremated or buried across the city as per the Covid-19 rules. This includes 184 cremations at Nigambodh Ghat and 111 at Punjabi Bagh. The Jadid Qabristan near ITO has reported 105 burials, the Buland Masjid nine, and Madanpur Khadar one.

POLITICAL SPARRING

BJP’s Delhi president Manoj Tiwari was among the first to express concern over the “under-reporting” of deaths. The parliamentarian asked Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to clear the air about it.

“Reports in newspapers have pegged deaths due to coronavirus in Delhi to more than 100 while the Delhi government has claimed only 66 deaths so far. It’s a matter of extreme shame that the Delhi government is reportedly underreporting the figures of death due to Covid-19 to hide its failure. This is not the time to indulge in politics over a matter of public health,” Tiwari said during a joint Facebook Live session with Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Ramvir Singh Bidhuri.

The two leaders said people of Delhi had the right to know the actual number of people who had died due to the disease. In response, Minister Jain denied the charges asserting no case will go unaccounted for. “There is no reason to hide anything. We have asked hospitals to send death reports or death summaries at the earliest,” Jain said.

As on Thursday, the total number of infected patients was 8,470 which included 115 deaths.

“The Kejriwal government must have thought that by reducing the death figures it can portray a lesser death rate,” said Jai Prakash, standing committee chairperson of the north corporation.

Those cremated or buried as per the Covid protocol also include suspected Covid-19 deaths which are not counted by government’s Death Audit Committee (DAC) as coronavirusrelated death.

Like the BJP, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Chaudhary Anil Kumar accused Kejriwal of hiding the actual corona pandemic data from the public. Kumar said the real figures were much more than what the government has been releasing.

“The Congress does not want to play politics with corona deaths, but according to media reports, the government figures and the data from crematoriums and burial grounds do not match. The data released by the central government hospitals and the Delhi government bulletins also differ. Kejriwal government is playing with the lives of the people by giving out misleading Covid data,” he said. Earlier, Congress leader Ajay Maken asked Kejriwal-led government in Delhi to be more transparent in coronavirus cases.

“It is a matter of shame that the national capital is witnessing a sorry state of affairs in the fight against the pandemic,” Maken said.

It is a matter of shame that the National Capital is witnessing a sorry state of affairs in the fight against the pandemic.

– Ajay Maken, Congress leader

GOVT ACCEPTS MISMATCH

Officials of Delhi government said that the hospitals would send the number of deaths to a Death Audit Committee to certify the cause of deaths. “The audit committee confirms the deaths before we report them,” said an official. The three-member committee to conduct an audit of all coronavirus deaths in the Capital was constituted on April 20.

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About the author: Sohom Das
Founder of Tuccho.

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