Close to 75,000 people died in Bihar of unexplained causes in the first five months of 2021, which coincided with the deadly second Covid wave, new data shows. This is almost 10 times the state’s official pandemic death figure, raising the question of whether the state is undercounting its Covid deaths.
About 1.3 lakh deaths were reported in Bihar in January-May 2019. The figure for the same time period in 2021 was almost 2.2 lakh, according to data from the state’s Civil Registration System, showing a difference of about 82,500. More than half of this 62 per cent increase was reported in May this year.
However, Bihar’s official Covid death fatalities figure for January-May 2021 was 7,717, arrived at earlier this month after the state added 3,951 more to the total. Even though authorities have not specified when these deaths, as recorded in the revised figure, took place, it is being assumed they occurred in 2021.
Yet, the overall number of official Covid deaths in the state is only a fraction of the excess deaths recorded by its Civil Registration System — a difference of 74,808 to be precise.
For now, this difference throws up a key question: Is the state still undercounting Covid deaths, despite the revised numbers.
After all, Bihar has historically had a poor track record when it comes to registering deaths.
It is the latest state where such possible undercounting is suspected. Similar trends were seen in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Delhi. Data analysed by NDTV earlier had shown there were 4.8 lakh unexplained excess deaths in these five states alone.
The second Covid wave, which is only now relenting, led to an unprecedented rise in deaths and hospitalisation across the country. What worsened the pandemic in India was the accompanying shortage of medical resources due to this surge which overwhelmed the medical infrastructure.