Party cites discrepancy in Gujarat data
The Congress has alleged under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in some States, especially Gujarat, and demanded an explanation from both the Centre and the State governments.
Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, addressing a virtual press conference along with Rajya Sabha member Shaktisinh Gohil, questioned the alleged huge discrepancy between the number of death certificates issued by authorities and the official data on COVID-19 deaths.
He argued that the increase in death certificates between last year and this year could not be explained as a natural increase. He asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to call for the data on deaths from every State.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi questioned the government’s vaccine strategy and said a “flawed policy” would now ensure a third wave in the country.
“The GOI’s [Government of India] disastrous vaccine strategy will ensure a devastating third wave. It can’t be repeated enough — India needs a proper vaccine strategy,” he said on Twitter.
Talking about the data on the deaths in Gujarat, Congress leaders claimed that the deaths in the State this year had doubled compared with 2020 and the substantial increase could only be attributed to the pandemic.
“We have a strong suspicion that the Government of India, in conjunction with some State governments, is suppressing the true numbers of new infections and COVID-related deaths. If our suspicions are true, this is a grave misdeed apart from being a national shame and a national tragedy,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
The Congress cited a news report in Divya Bhaskar, a Gujarati newspaper, which claimed that Gujarat issued about 1,23,000 death certificates between March 1 and May 10 this year as against about 58,000 certificates for the same period last year.
Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Gohil claimed that they had independently verified the data from 33 districts of the State and it matched with the newspaper’s investigative report.
However, for the same period (March 1 to May 10), the Gujarat government had officially admitted to only 4,218 COVID-related deaths. The Congress leaders said the difference between the increase in the number of death certificates (65,000) and the official COVID-related deaths (4,218) should be explained.
“We have a strong suspicion that the bulk of the increased number of deaths is due to COVID-19 and the State government is suppressing the true number of COVID-related deaths. Our suspicions are confirmed by the fact that hundreds of unidentified bodies have been found floating in the Ganga and nearly 2000 unidentified bodies have been found buried on the sands along the river,” Mr. Chidambaram said.
Asked about taking forward the issue of the under-reporting of deaths, he said, “First, I think the NHRC must ask every State to submit figures of the death certificates issued last year, that is from March 1 to whatever date, and the death certificates issued this year… Secondly, I am hoping that the Pradesh Congress Committees will immediately write to their Chief Ministers or to the Ministers concerned, asking for comparable numbers for that State. And third, this statement will be sent to the lawyers who are appearing in the Supreme Court. I am hoping that one of them will file it and the Supreme Court will be persuaded to issue a notice to all the State government to file an affidavit disclosing the death certificates issued last year and the death certificates issued this year.”
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