India’s Covid-19 Death Toll Hits 200,000, but is the Real Number Higher?

India’s Covid death toll hits 2,00,000, but is the real number higher?On Wednesday, India which has been hit with a particularly brutal second wave of the novel coronavirus reported 200,000 deaths from Covid-19. However, experts believe the real number is much higher and doesn’t reflect the rise in daily infections and on-ground realities. Local media organizations have reported that there are discrepancies between state-collated data and the numbers of bodies in crematoriums and burial grounds.

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This has been corroborated by gravediggers, workers who cremate the dead, and ambulance services that transport the dead. As official crematoriums are overwhelmed and under-equipped to deal with the newly dead, temporary crematoriums have cropped up in empty parking lots. As of this writing, an ambulance service in New Delhi reports that the number of victims being transported to crematoriums has increased from 10 to 50. Burial grounds echo this chilling narrative. New Delhi’s largest Muslim graveyard oversees about 40 burials a day.

Doctors and medical personnel have also been contesting official death counts. Telangana, a state in southern India reported that 33 people died of Covid-19 on April 23. However, just two hospitals in the state’s capital Hyderabad reported up to 100 deaths that day. Another discrepancy may come from the way deaths are being registered. Though states are required to record all suspected Covid-19 deaths (deaths from complications that may have arisen from or been worsened by Covid-19), many have not been doing so.

Unreliable data may have shaped the way Indian leadership acted late last year. In January 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used low death counts and ebbing cases to claim India’s victory over the coronavirus. However, his administration has also failed to heed reliable data, holding huge election rallies and supporting the gathering of pilgrims and devotees when the country was on the brink of the surge with hundreds of thousands of daily infections.