Delhi govt again faces charge of 'under-reporting' COVID-19 deaths; Toll nearly 3 times, allege MCD leaders

New Delhi, May 23 (PTI) There is a 'massive discrepancy' between the COVID-19 death toll recorded from cremation and burial sites in the national capital, and the number reported by the Delhi government, senior leaders of BJP-ruled civic bodies alleged on Saturday.

There was no immediate reaction from the Delhi government, which had earlier also faced flak after it came to light that the number of coronavirus deaths reported by hospitals was higher than those mentioned in its health bulletin.

Standing Committee chairman of BJP-led North Delhi Municipal Corporation Jai Prakash claimed that till May 21, as many as 282 people, who were coronavirus-positive, have been cremated or buried as per the standard protocol in its area.

Leader of House in BJP-led South Delhi Municipal Corporation Kamaljeet Sehrawat also claimed a much larger death count, saying 309 COVID-19-positive people have been cremated or buried in its area, as per the municipal data.

The COVID-19 death toll, according to official bulletin released by the Delhi heath department, stood at 194 on May 21.

The toll has now jumped to 231, according to the latest bulletin released on Saturday.

'If you combine the total death figures from NDMC and SDMC, it comes out to be nearly 600 till May 21, which is almost three times what the Delhi government reported. The AAP government is under-reporting death cases to save its face,' Prakash alleged.

'The Kejriwal government is afraid that if real death figures become known to people, it will puncture its claim that coronavirus situation is supposedly under control in Delhi,' he said.

Several phone calls and text messages to Delhi heath department officials did not elicit any response.

The city government had earlier blamed the hospitals for the mismatch in the death toll figures, saying they were not providing it timely information, and had issued fresh guidelines to them for submitting death reports.

Sehrawat, a former South Delhi mayor, said that based on data obtained from the staff at crematoria, 'bodies of 232 coronavirus-positive cases were brought to Punjabi Bagh crematorium, while 68 bodies were of suspected cases' till May 21.

Similarly, 76 bodies of COVID-19 victims were brought to ITO Kabristan and one body at Madanpur Khadar burial ground till that date, she claimed.

NDMC panel chief Prakash claimed that 270 bodies of coronavirus victims were brought to Nigambodh Ghat for cremation, while 11 bodies were buried at Mangolpuri Muslim burial ground and one at a Christmas cemetery in Rohini till May 21.

Both Prakash and Sehrawat claimed that they have 'submitted' these figures to the Delhi government.

'The Delhi government is perhaps trying to portray that everything is under control and sort of normal. Why can't they just acknowledge these deaths, it will only make people more aware and alert,' Sehrawat said.

SDMC standing committee chairman Bhupender Gupta, said, 'An inquiry should be done to analyse these huge discrepancies', adding, 'it will then prove, who is lying'.

'Even today, many bodies of COVID-19 victims were brought to Punjabi Bagh crematorium. And, we are quoting from the tags attached to the bodies, which clearly tell if the deceased person was COVID-positive or suspected to be have died of the infection,' he claimed.

Prakash also questioned the easing of lockdown across the city from May 19, saying areas should have been designated and then opened in staggered fashion.

Sehrawat alleged that 'SDMC officials were not consulted by the Delhi government while formulating policies'.

'It is time to fight this pandemic together, and not to resort to any sort of politics,' she said. PTI KND RT