Bihar Covid death toll increases by 73% after HC-ordered review
Bihar revised its Covid-19 toll on Wednesday by adding 3,951 deaths, an increase of 72.8% that was attributed to fatalities at private hospitals, homes and of post-disease complications not recorded earlier.
The government undertook the 20-day exercise to audit Covid-19 deaths after the Patna high court flagged irregularities in death figures in Buxar district on May 17. After verification, the state’s Covid-19 cumulative toll jumped to 9,375 on June 8, as against 5,424 reported a day earlier.
The increase was due to deaths reported at private hospitals, under home isolation and of post-Covid complications, said additional secretary (health) Pratyaya Amrit. “These deaths had remained unaccounted earlier,” he said.
Four of the state’s 38 districts showed a rise of at least 200% in the toll.
Kaimur, which reported 44 deaths by June 7, revised it to 146 on June 8, a rise of 231.81%.
In Saharsa, the toll went up from 40 to 130, up by 225%.
In Begusarai, the toll jumped by 228.98%, from 138 deaths by June 7 to 454 on June 8,
In East Champaran, the toll surged by 222.13%, from 131 on June 7 to 422 on June 8.
Munger was the only district that reported no increase. No district recorded a decline in the toll.
State capital Patna reported an increase of 87.48%, up from 1,223 on June 7 to 2,293 on June 8.
“We verified Covid deaths from different sources, including private hospitals, crematoriums and the Patna Municipal Corporation for those dying under home isolation,” said Chandrashekhar Singh, Patna’s district magistrate.
The government constituted committees at the district level, comprising civil surgeon, additional chief medical officer and a senior medical officer. It tasked the principal, superintendent and head of the department of medicine at the medical college hospital level to scrutinise all deaths. Under the rules, any Covid-19 death had to be uploaded on the national portal within three days.
Amrit said the government will take stern disciplinary action against officials for laxity in registering Covid deaths. “We want to be absolutely transparent about Covid-19 deaths so that the bereaved family gets government relief,” he added. Bihar gives ₹4 lakh compensation to the next of kin of the deceased in case of Covid-19 death. It has released ex gratia funds for 3,737 Covid-19 victims so far.
On May 17, the Patna high court flagged inconsistency in death figures in Buxar district after affidavits filed by the state’s chief secretary and Patna divisional commissioner differed. The judges asked the government to verify facts from all sources before placing it in court. “Else, it will amount to filing false or incomplete affidavit,” the bench of chief justice Sanjay Karol and justice Sanjay Kumar had said. The hearing had come after at least 80 bodies were discovered floating in the Ganga in the district.
Dr Sahajanand Prasad Singh, president (elect) of Indian Medical Association, praised the state government for being candid in reporting the deaths. “The state government has done course correction and has been transparent enough to mention the actual number of Covid-19 deaths in the state,” he said.
The opposition, however, was quick to take potshots at the JD(U)-BJP led government in the state for the flip-flop.
“The state government has been exposed. We have been proven right that there was an underreporting of Covid-19 deaths in the state,” RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tiwary said.
BJP state president Dr Sanjay Jaiswal, however, described the revision of death toll as an attempt to maintain transparency and ensure justice to the families of the Covid-19 victims.
“There were several suspected cases of Covid where the patients died before their reports came in. After scrutiny, all such cases have been included in our efforts to ensure that the bereaved families get the government compensation,” said Dr Jaiswal.