By K Raveendran
The World Health Organization (WHO) statement of 4.7 million as ‘excessive’ Covid deaths above the officially recognized figure in India and the Modi government’s response to the report are both shocking, but not surprising. The WHO has resisted continued opposition from the Indian government to finally release the report.
The WHO has only stated what the Indian public knew as fact about the high death toll from covid but vehemently denied by the Modi government in its desperation to claim success in fighting the pandemic. The report also agrees with the disturbing images flashing on television screens around the world of crematoria and funerals bursting at the seams, pyres burning non-stop, bodies floating in rivers and victims dropping dead in the middle of roads outside. hospitals while having trouble breathing.
The government has questioned the method and data collection used by WHO to arrive at the number. It has also questioned the robustness and validity of the models followed by the World Organization and attempted to counter this by referring to an ‘extremely robust’ civil registry system for recording births and deaths. But the government refuses to acknowledge that at the height of the pandemic, all systems and infrastructures were overwhelmed by the severity and magnitude of the problem. One or more problems with methodology and models might make a difference in terms of thousands or even lakhs, but not to the extent that the final figure would be 10 times more.
For the statistically minded, the Modi government’s claim that the total death toll from covid is less than 5 lakh is totally untenable. According to the government’s claim, the daily average deaths for the two years of 2020 and 2021 will be less than 700. There is no way such a small number could put pressure on funeral and funeral facilities to avoid the deeply disturbing scenes. that were seen around hospitals, cemeteries, crematoria and riverbanks.
At the height of the pandemic, Delhi’s crematoria and cemeteries alone reported about 1,000 burials over three days, which is more than 300 per day. Based on the national average of 700 deaths per day, this would mean that nearly half of all covid deaths in India occurred in Delhi, with the rest of the country contributing the other half. Nothing is more absurd than such an assumption. So if an expert body says the figure was 10 times more, that’s no cause for alarm.
The Modi government certainly has an agenda to keep the death toll low while the WHO has no such problems as the global body is only interested in dealing with the pandemic as best it can. It has nothing to gain by pointing out that India is responsible for almost a third of all covid deaths worldwide. It is not only India that has blamed the WHO for underreporting covid death languages, it has blamed most countries in this regard. In fact, the WHO has pointed out that many countries, including those in Europe and America, lack the capacity to reliably monitor mortality and therefore do not collect and generate the data needed to calculate excess mortality.
The WHO believes these sobering numbers are important as they only highlight the impact of the pandemic, but also the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can support essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems. The numbers provide decision-makers with information to guide policies to reduce the death rate and effectively prevent future crises.
It is actually this process that successfully frustrates the Modi government’s obsession. To solve any problem, the first most important step is to recognize the problem. This is where the government is making a serious mistake. The government should not feel guilty because covid was a natural phenomenon. It’s like a government trying to suppress the death toll from an earthquake that results from tectonic factors beyond human control. A government’s responsibility for such a natural disaster is rather far-fetched because it occurs as a result of shifts in the tectonic plains over long periods of time beyond the control of any particular government. Nobody blames a government for an earthquake. If the world has failed to fight covid early enough to prevent such large-scale deaths, it is the manifestation of human failure, not the failure of a government, despite the fact that there may have been areas where the government could have perform better. (IPA service)
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