Data on COVID-19 deaths in ‘model’ Gujarat may be a vast undercount: Report

There were 16,892 more deaths in 68 of Gujarat’s 170 municipalities between March 2020 and April 2021, the Reporters’ Collective found

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 17 August 2021
Photo: @CMOGuj / Twitter__

The deaths due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Gujarat might have been vastly undercounted. The actual number might be many times greater than the figures given by the state government, a new report published in a number of news websites August 17, 2021, claimed.

According to a report published in The Wire, “16,892 more people died from all causes between March 2020 and April 2021, compared to the same period the prior year — the year preceding the pandemic” in 68 of Gujarat’s 170 municipalities.

Journalists from the Reporters’ Collective said “they spent three months meticulously gathering, translating and analysing the data from the primary source of death records, municipal death registers”.

Details of a death and about the dead person were first entered manually in such registers, the report said. One of the three reporters who filed the report travelled across Gujarat in the month of June.

The Reporters’ Collective is a media platform that reports “on how India’s political economy and governance functions”.

The Gujarat government has claimed as of 10.49 pm August 16 that 10,075 people have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began in early 2020. 

The reporters did not include data from rural areas, where 57 per cent of Gujarat’s population lives. They also did not include data from May 2021 when there were more deaths than April as there was a dearth of data at the end of May. Only three of the 68 municipalities had data by May-end, the report noted.

There were other shockers in the report too. For instance, the reporters were able to get hold of death records of urban municipalities as well as Gram Panchayats for a Botad, a district in Saurashtra.

They found that “there were 3117 excess deaths in the district between March 2020 and June 2021”. This was “a whopping 74 times more than the government tally”.

The journalists had also extrapolated the number of excess deaths that they found (16,892) for the entire state and came to the figure of 0.28 million. This is 27 times greater than the figures given by the state government.

This is not the first time that the under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths has been highlighted. Earlier, Rukmini S, an independent reporter, had written several reports on the issue. The Indian Express too had reported on the same.

Down To Earth had also reported about the number of COVID-19 deaths being an undercount.

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