From the summer of 2020 to the present, the bubble of untruth has spread to an alarming degree… from certain hospitals in Kolkata to as many as eight districts in Bihar. Noticeable also is the tendency to keep coronavirus deaths under the hat in what appears to be an exercise in obfuscation leading to medical data being swept under the carpet.
The distinguished historian Prof Hari Vasudevan’s passing was in the death certificate attributed to “chronic ailments”, whereas he had actually succumbed to Covid-19 on May 10 last year, when the state’s health authorities were at sixes and sevens to treat the dreaded illness. It eventually devolved on his wife to spill the beans, robustly denying that her husband was admitted to AMRI in Salt Lake to address “chronic” health problems.
At another remove, the latest report from Bihar is an insult to medical science. It thus comes about that Covid death figures in the state rose from 5478 on June 8 to 9429 on June 9 ~ following a bout of data revision on the orders of Patna High Court. The 72 per cent increase in the number of casualties was a direct consequence of the judiciary stepping in to counter the contrived obfuscation by health authorities.
The High Court had ordered a three-week audit in the aftermath of allegations that the authorities were concealing the number of Covid infections and deaths. In Bihar’s Buxar district for instance, there were gross inconsistencies in the death figures advanced by senior bureaucrats. Small wonder The New York Times reported recently that the actual Covid infections in India could be 20 to 26 times the government figure, and the casualty figures could be five to 13 times the official count.
While the Union government has denied the contents of the report, doubts persist not the least because of events in Bihar. The numerical jugglery may have driven people quicker to death than to a semblance of treatment, let alone the dearth of oxygen and vaccines. The health authorities have drawn a fine distinction between deaths in private hospitals, deaths during transit to hospital, deaths in home isolation and deaths from post-Covid complications.
Such semantic quibbling on the part of the administration in Patna shall not lessen the enormity of the tragedy. The death toll has been much higher in Bihar in the wake of the second wave. It is almost incredible that casualties in 35 of the state’s 38 districts were “unreported”, according to the audit. Patna was the worst affected district. The RJD leader, Tejashwi Yadav, has summed up the crisis in public health succinctly with the searing criticism ~ “The Nitish government is fake, hence its data will also be fake.” Quod Erat Demonstrandum(QED).