Covid: Rahul Gandhi blames Centre for the death of millions
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who has consistently dismissed the official Covid death figures as a “lie”, on Wednesday said 50 lakh people had lost their lives in India during the pandemic so far and held the government responsible for this.
Rahul tweeted: “The Truth. Government of India’s wrong decisions during Covid second wave killed 50 lakh of our sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.”
The Truth.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 21, 2021
GOI’s wrong decisions during Covid second wave killed 50 lakh of our sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.https://t.co/dv3IRenXWm
The official Covid death toll in India is over 4.18 lakh.
The Congress leader posted the findings of a study by the Centre for Global Development, a Washington research institute, that offers three estimates of the number of casualties in India. Released on Tuesday, the study estimates that between 3.4 and 4.9 million more people than would normally be expected died in the country between January 2020 and June 2021.
The study notes that “India lacks an authoritative estimate of the death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic”. “We report excess mortality estimates from three different data sources,” it says.
“First, extrapolation of state-level civil registration from seven states suggests 3.4 million excess deaths. Second, applying international estimates of age-specific infection fatality rates (IFR) to Indian seroprevalence data implies a higher toll of around 4 million. Third, our analysis of the Consumer Pyramid Household Survey, a longitudinal panel of over 800,000 individuals across all states, yields an estimate of 4.9 million excess deaths,” the report says.
It adds: “Each of these estimates has shortcomings and they also diverge in the pattern of deaths between the two waves of the pandemic. Estimating Covid deaths with statistical confidence may prove elusive. But all estimates suggest that the death toll from the pandemic is likely to be an order of magnitude greater than the official count of 400,000; they also suggest that the first wave was more lethal than is believed.”
One of the authors of the study is Arvind Subramanian, former chief economic adviser to the Narendra Modi government. The other authors are Abhishek Anand and Justin Sandefur. Anand is a graduate from Harvard Kennedy School while Sandefur is associated with the Centre for Global Development.
Some other studies in the recent past have also suggested that the number of deaths in India is far higher than the official toll.
The media has been agog with reports on deaths exceeding the official counts by several times. Regional newspapers have based their reports on blizzards of death certificates issued during the second wave of the pandemic and the overflowing crematoriums and graveyards.
Rahul also referred to the Centre’s assertion that no deaths had been reported because of oxygen shortage during the second Covid wave.
“It wasn’t just oxygen that was scarce. There was and still is a huge shortage of sensitivity and truth,” he tweeted in Hindi.
Former finance minister P. Chidambaram also commented on the Centre’s claim on medical oxygen.
“Now, it is ‘no reports of deaths due to shortage of oxygen’. Read that carefully. Minister did not say there were ‘no deaths’. He said ‘no reports of deaths’. A blind and deaf government will not be able to see or hear the truth. The government has perfected the art of facing every tragedy with bluff and bluster,” the Congress veteran tweeted, referring to Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya’s response in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
In April and May, visuals and reports of families scrambling to secure oxygen cylinders and of hospitals sending out SOS messages on social media and approaching the courts for urgent oxygen supply were in the newspapers and on television.
The Centre told Parliament that the states and Union Territories had not reported any deaths because of oxygen shortage. What it did not say was that the Centre had not sought the data.