Bihar health dept sets up 3-tier committee to update Covid-19 death toll
Shortly after the Patna high court’s flak over inconsistencies in the Covid-19 related death toll, the Bihar health department has set up a three-tier committee to compile, verify and update the details of Covid-19 deaths in the second wave of the pandemic, HT has learnt.
The death toll due to Covid-19, which officially stood at 9,543 till Saturday evening, would be updated once the state-level committee, headed by the director-in-chief, health services, issues a fresh list of casualty after verification of documents of those who died before June 7.
The state-level committee, comprising administrative officer of the state health societies and the additional director, health department, has been asked by the department to scrutinise the claims of deaths recommended by the district magistrates (DMs) based on reports submitted by the committees set up at medical colleges and hospitals and the district levels.
“The principals will head the medical college-level committees, while civil surgeon would preside over the district level committees,” said a senior officer, citing a letter issued to all the DMs by the department.
In the letter issued on June 18, additional chief secretary, health, Pratyay Amrit asked the DMs to compile the fatality figure of all those dying due to Covid before June 7 and help the department update the figure before the next date of hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) that the Patna high court lodged for hearing suo moto.
On Friday last, the court had taken serious exceptions to huge discrepancies in deaths as furnished by the state health department and those compiled by other civic agencies during the second phase of the pandemic.
Owing to the high court’s intervention, the department revised the Covid-19 death toll on June 9 to 9429 from the earlier stated toll of 3951. The department, however, refrained from specifying as to when these additional deaths took place, even as the district-wise breakup was released.
The Patna High Court, in an order uploaded Friday, made scathing observations on the Bihar government, saying it is most reluctant to put in the public domain the number of deaths that occurred in the state during the last year during the Covid-19 pandemic and that it is obligatory on the state to fight the “infodemic”.
A division bench of Patna high court comprising chief justice Sanjay Karol and justice Sanjay Kumar, while hearing the PIL on the Covid-19 management in Bihar, observed that “…Transparency is the hallmark of good governance, more so in today’s era, especially when the government, both Central and the state, are committed to making success the flagship “Digital India” programme and the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) – 2012.”
The bench stated that the need to undertake such an exercise arose only “when the court did not find the number of deaths reported by the government of Bihar during the second wave of Covid-19 to be correct, which stood confirmed through the affidavit dated June 10, 2021, filed by the chief secretary wherein it is stated that the total number of deaths which took place in Bihar is 9375 and not 5424, the figure indicated earlier”.