Cong alleges under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in states like Gujarat; demands explanation from govt

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New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) The Congress on Saturday alleged under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in some states especially in Gujarat and demanded an explanation from both the central and the state governments.

Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Shaktisinh Gohil in a joint press conference alleged that the deaths in Gujarat this year have doubled than in 2020 and claimed that the substantial increase cannot be explained as a natural annual one and can only be attributed to a pandemic.

The two Congress leaders cited a news report that claimed that Gujarat issued about 1,23,000 death certificates between March 1 and May 10, as against about 58,000 certificates issued during the same period last year and said they got these verified after collecting data from 33 districts of the state.

They said the sum of the number of the death certificates collected nearly tallies with the numbers published and that comes to 1,23,873 in 2021 against 58,068 last year.

However, during the period March 1 to May 10, the government of Gujarat has officially admitted to only 4,218 COVID-related deaths.

Chidambaram said the difference between the increase in the number of death certificates (65,805) and the official COVID-related deaths (4,218) must be explained.

It cannot be explained as 'natural annual increase' or 'due to other causes', he noted.

'We have a strong suspicion that the bulk of the increased number of deaths is due to COVID 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 on the River Ganga and nearly 2000 unidentified bodies have been found buried on the sands along the River Ganga,' he claimed.

'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,' he alleged.

'The government of India and the government of Gujarat owe an explanation to the people of India. The Congress party, We demand answers and an explanation,' Chidambaram said.

He said it was a matter of shame if this was happening.

Chidambaram said the NHRC must ask every state to submit figures of death certificates issued last year and this year. He also hoped that state Congress units also write to chief ministers or to the ministers concerned in their states asking for comparable numbers of deaths for that state.

He also said that their statement in this regard would also be presented before the Supreme Court, which is hearing the case about COVID deaths and the court will be persuaded to issue a notice to all the state government to file an affidavit disclosing that death certificates issued last year and this year be provided.

'This matter cannot be hidden for too long. This is so glaring, so obvious that there is a conspiracy of silence and conspiracy of lies to suppress the numbers of deaths due to COVID,' he said.

Chidambaram also criticised the government's 'flip-flop' on vaccine strategy by asking those who have taken Covishield to take the second dose after 12-16 weeks, after they were initially told to take the same after four weeks. He asked whether those who took the second dose after four weeks would be vulnerable to the virus and have to take the booster dose.

He accused the government of being only concerned about building the image in the glory of the Prime Minister and every step taken and every responsibility of this government is to protect the image of the Prime Minister.

'If any good step is taken, anything that will bring a benefit, immediately the credit should go to the central government and in particularly to the Prime Minister. When, there is a responsibility to procure vaccines that have passed on to the state governments. When there is a responsibility to pay for the vaccine that is passed on to the state government. When, there is responsibility to float a global tender that is passed on to the state governments,' he said.

The Congress leader also criticised the prime minister of shifting the blame of the second wave of the virus to the scientists, saying what else do you expect from him.' 'He shifted the blame to the states. He passed the buck to the states. Now, he is passing the buck to the poor scientists... the scientists will have to bear this burden, because they did not call out the prime minister early enough. At least, now the scientists must call out the prime minister,' he said.

'This is one of the many flip flops of the government. Earlier, they said- 4 to 6 weeks. Then they said- 6 to 8 weeks and then they said- 8 to 10 weeks, and now they are saying 12 to 16 weeks and on the day government of India says, 12 to 16 weeks, UK is announcing, we are going back to 8 weeks, at least for people over the age of 50,' he said.

'My humble appeal to them is, please don't play the game of the government. The government is laying a trap in which scientists and medical experts will fall and the government will pass the blame to the scientists and the medical experts,' he said, adding that they must speak the truth irrespective of what the government wants.

As far as vaccination is concerned, Chidambaram alleged that the government is again 'bluffing'.

'Why are they lying to the people of this country? Why are they trying to fool the people of this country? This can never be achieved unless the availability of vaccines increases multifold and there is no evidence the government is succeeding in increasing the availability of vaccines many times over,' he said. PTI SKC ZMN