The COVID-19 death toll in Bihar jumped by a whopping 72.84% after a recount by the government and the Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) on Thursday accused Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of fudging data. The government, however, said its “intent was to reach out to family members of the deceased”.
Taking a potshot at the government for the huge jump in the death toll figure in a single day, RJD chief Lalu Prasad tweeted in Hindi, “Nitish became fake by fudging data that brought immense worldwide disgrace but he did not feel ashamed”.
Mr. Prasad’s younger son and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Tejashwi Yadav, said in a tweet, “when you get caught, the death toll rose by 4,000 in a single day. Whatever Nitish Kumar government is telling about death toll data, there has been 20% more death from this. When Nitish government is fake, data too will be fake”.
Health Minister Mangal Pandey said, “We got to know from various sources that those who died [due to COVID-19] could be more in number. After consultations with the stakeholders, the government has instructed the district administration to identify institutional deaths due to COVID-19”. He added that “the intent of the exercise was to reach out to the family members of the deceased”.
‘Intent is clean’
Senior BJP leader and party Rajya Sabha member Sushil Kumar Modi also said, “the intent of the government was clean, so it updated the data of COVID-19 death toll”. “The updated data was not released by any investigating agency but by the health department and its intent was to provide ₹4 lakh compensation to the family members of all deceased and other help to them”, he said in a release to the media. “If the Opposition’s allegation of data fudging is right, the government would not have constituted a team to collect right data, neither had mustered the courage to update it”, he added.
On June 7, the official figure was 5,424. But the next day the government said the figure had gone up to 9,375, after it recounted deaths in all the 38 districts.
In the verification exercise that lasted 15-20 days, the government added 3,951 more death counts. Most of them happened, said health officials, in the second wave of the pandemic, since April 2021.
The health department also revised the number of recovered persons to 7,01, 234 from 6, 98, 397 reported on June 7. The recovery rate, which was 98.70% on June 7, too came down to 97.65 % on June 9. Among the districts, Patna had the maximum number of death toll with 2,303, followed by Muzaffarpur with 609 fatalities, Nalanda (463), Begusarai (454), East Champaran (425), Darbhanga (342) and Madhubani (317).
“The spurt in the number of deaths reflects deaths reported at private hospitals, in transit to health facilities, under home isolation and those dying of post COVID-19 complications after they tested negative and discharged from hospitals”, additional secretary (health) Pratyaya Amrit told media persons on Wednesday.
Court expresses concern
In May last, a division bench of the Patna High Court slammed the government and expressed concern over inconsistencies in the death toll in Buxar district presented by two top government officials in two separate affidavits. It asked the government to verify all facts before putting them on record. “All facts must be verified from all sources and then only be placed before us, else it will amount to filing of false or incomplete affidavit”, the court of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar told the government.
Bihar, till June 9, registered 7,353 active cases with total 7,15,179 positive cases. The death toll, so far, has been reported to be 9,429.