A report published by the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar on May 25 brings to light the serious underreporting of numbers in the official government data related to COVID-19 cases and deaths in the rural districts of Rajasthan.
The figures released by the Congress-led Rajasthan government say that from April 1 to 20 May, in 25 rural districts only 3918 people have died of COVID-19. However, the data collected by the Dainik Bhaskar from just 512 villages-blocks in these districts show that 14,482 bodies have been cremated in that period.
The general number of deaths in a period of 90 days in these areas is around 2,705. So if Dainik Bhaskar‘s data is taken into consideration, the death numbers have increased multifold— almost 7 times. Even though the dead bodies in the villages under question are not being cremated with COVID-19 protocol, the increase in the numbers is very unusual and too high to be attributed to a general increase in deaths and not to the second wave of the COVID19.
The report is based on an investigation carried out by the team of the newspaper which included 28 bureau chiefs and 46 reporters over a period of 90 days. The team’s data collection process involved collecting death numbers from the cremation grounds which were then cross-checked with the villagers, village chiefs (Sarpanch), Gram Panchayat, and public representatives. During this, the report mentions that the villagers complained that the Rajasthan government had not taken adequate care of the health care services in the rural areas that have been affected by the pandemic.
The people who are dying even after testing positive are being given attention from the local authorities and no COVID-19 protocol is being followed in their cremation. At the beginning of the second week of May, 21 people had allegedly died after attending the funeral of a COVID patient without any COVID SOP in the Sikar district of Rajasthan but the authorities said that only 4 out of these reported deaths happened due to the virus, NDTV reported.
After allegations of severe underreporting of COVID19 deaths in rural areas, the Rajasthan government has constituted three teams headed by senior doctors to audit the COVID-19 deaths in a given time period. The team will be investigating the COVID-19 deaths in the districts of the state and check for any discrepancies between the ground reality and the numbers given by the authorities, India Today reported.
With 3886 new cases and 107 deaths reported on May 27, Rajasthan now has over 71,000 active COVID-19 cases and 8103 deaths.