Orissa HC rejects govt affidavit on Covid deaths citing discrepancies
Unimpressed by the Odisha government’s affidavit on Covid deaths during the first and second wave, the Orissa high court has asked for a comprehensive and up to date account before the next hearing on September 7.
The HC said the state government’s figures on Covid deaths had discrepancies and rejected its affidavit made up of just three paragraphs and called for a detailed affidavit.
The Odisha government on July 15 submitted an affidavit saying 4,925 persons had died due to Covid-19 in the state with the most 849 deaths taking place in Khurda district, followed by Sundargarh (427), Ganjam (400), Cuttack (311) and Nayagarh (132). It also claimed that a total 949,929 positive Covid-19 cases were registered in the state by July 15 and the maximum 167,913 were reported from Khurda, followed by 82,826 in Cuttack, 60,132 in Sundargarh, 41,825 in Puri and 41, 442 in Angul.
The HC bench said the chief district medical officer of Nayagarh district had submitted that 117 Covid deaths had taken place in just 2 months of May and June this year, which was much higher than the state government’s statistics, which claimed the total number of Covid deaths due to the first and the second wave in the district was 132 and wanted to know the reason for the discrepancy.
“What was the extent of under-reported deaths in each of the other districts is not known. The modality of conducting the audit of quality of care and death review has also not been explained,” the bench said, referring to the government’s claim that district level committees had audited Covid deaths.
Refusing to accept the affidavit, the bench said, “The court directs that a far more detailed affidavit be filed by the additional chief secretary on this aspect before the next date (September 7), indicating whether in fact [and] the figures now disclosed can be accepted as reliable figures of the actual number of Covid deaths in the district”. The bench also directed that the affidavit should have updated statistics as on August 31.
Early this month, vice-president of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and a member of legislative assembly (MLA) Soumya Ranjan Patnaik kicked up a storm alleging the government statistics on Covid-19 were fudged. In a front page editorial of leading Odia daily Sambad, Patnaik said a desperate race to be on the top and the attempt to cling onto past glory, seems to have resulted in such manipulation.
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also demanded a white paper on Covid deaths alleging massive under-reporting.
Till July 31, Odisha has officially reported 5,902 Covid deaths including 68 deaths in the last 24 hours. Though the daily Covid cases have come down to about 1,500 from a peak of 12,852 on May 22, the deaths have been hovering between 65 and 70 since the last 20 days.