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Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Mismatch again: MCDs’ coronavirus death numbers double Delhi govt’s

When asked about figures provided by the two civic bodies, the Delhi government spokesperson said they had received the reports from both corporations, but added that neither had produced supporting documents and reports for bodies which they claimed had tested positive.

Written by Abhinav Rajput | New Delhi | Updated: May 22, 2020 7:52:55 am
Mismatch again: MCDs’ coronavirus death numbers double Delhi govt’s Medics attend to patients at a government hospital in New Delhi during the nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, on Thursday, May 21, 2020. (Express Photo: Amit Mehra)

The Municipal Corporations of North and South Delhi have told the Delhi government that they have recorded 426 cremations or burials at six designated cremation/burial grounds until May 16 as “Corona positive”.

On Thursday, the Delhi government’s official health bulletin had put the number of Covid deaths in the city at 194. The government said the civic bodies had not provided documents to back their claim on the numbers.

Earlier this month, The Indian Express had reported a mismatch between the death toll put out by the Delhi government and four hospitals — the latter being significantly higher. Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain had said hospitals were not sending information to the government’s Death Audit Committee on time.

The two civic bodies provided the information to the government after Delhi Health Secretary Padmini Singla, on May 16, sought details of cremations and burials performed at the Nigambodh Ghat and Punjabi Bagh crematoriums and the ITO graveyard of bodies of people who either had or were suspected to have Covid-19.

When asked about figures provided by the two civic bodies, the Delhi government spokesperson said they had received the reports from both corporations, but added that neither had produced supporting documents and reports for bodies which they claimed had tested positive.

“The Health Bulletin reports death as declared by the Death Audit Committee. In the report submitted by the MCDs, a significant number of cases did not have the necessary documents. After studying all the reports, the number declared by the Death Audit Committee was found to be accurate,” the government spokesperson said.

In her order seeking details from the MCDs, Singla had made it clear that all supporting documents must be provided. “It is requested that copies of the register having details of such cremations/burials of Covid-related deaths (positive and suspect), along with supporting documents like lab reports, doctor’s certificate, etc, may be sent to this department,” Singla had written.

In their response to the government, sent on May 17, both civic bodies divided the cases as ‘corona positive’ and ‘corona suspected’.

The North corporation wrote that it had recorded cremations/burials of 202 ‘Covid positive’ bodies — at Nigambodh Ghat (191), the “Muslim burial ground” at Mangolpuri (10), and the “Christian cemetery” at Mangolpuri (1). It also stated that it had recorded 50 cremations of ‘Covid suspected’ bodies — all at Nigambodh Ghat.

The South corporation wrote that 224 ‘Corona positive’ cremations or burials had been recorded — 162 at the Punjabi Bagh crematorium, 61 at the “ITO kabristan”, and 1 at the Madanpur Khadar burial ground. In the column for ‘Corona suspected’ bodies, the South MCD stated that while 15 were cremated at Punjabi Bagh, 68 were buried at the ITO graveyard.

The director of press and information, North corporation, confirmed that a reply had been sent to the government. She said she was not authorised to share further details. The South corporation spokesperson confirmed they had sent the data. The health departments of both civic bodies had prepared the reports.

North MCD’s standing committee chairperson Jai Prakash claimed the data is based on entries made by staff at cremation/burial grounds on the basis of information provided by hospitals. The head of the standing committee of the South MCD, Bhupender Gupta, reiterated this.

While nine cremation/burial grounds have been designated for the final rites of those who either had or were suspected to have Covid, some are not carrying out cremations or burials since they either have space constraints or face resistance from residents living nearby.

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