Remembering those who have fallen
Over the past year, close to 230,000 Indians have died due to Covid-19. On Tuesday, 3,790 Indians died as the second wave of the pandemic continues to wreak devastation across homes, villages, towns and cities in the country. But it is increasingly clear that official figures do not capture the scale of the tragedy that is underway. Reportage from hospitals, mortuaries, burial grounds, crematoriums, and local communities indicate that the death count is higher than these figures. This is indeed different from the first wave. India was, then, unfairly, criticised by some for undercounting deaths — but this was untrue because, as many others pointed out, it is difficult to hide deaths when it assumes a certain scale in India. Dense social and information networks bring out the truth. And precisely because of that, in the second wave, it appears that deaths on the ground and in official figures don’t align.
This may be due to a range of reasons — a deliberate effort by official authorities to downplay the number of deaths (for every death reflects poorly on the Indian State); or because of a restrictive criteria of how to categorise Covid-19 deaths when it is often attributed to co-morbidities; or the fact that many of those who pass away at home due to Covid, but may or may not have got an official test done, are not reported as Covid deaths; or because of families themselves being opaque because of the fear that those who have died due to Covid-19 won’t be accorded dignity in death.
Irrespective of the reasons, it is critical to be transparent about India’s fatalities. This data is crucial to understand the nature of this wave and to be able to save other lives. It is also important to remember those who have fallen, and do justice to their memory, by being honest about why they died.