Over a month and a half after the second wave hit India, the uncounted COVID-19 deaths have been a recurring issue across the country. The number of people being cremated is reportedly much higher than what the official statistics show.
In Haryana, the data of COVID-19 fatality figures released by the state government and health authorities show a vast discrepancy. There is a difference in the number of cremations as well.
According to the local media bulletin on Monday, May 17, the state reported eight COVID-19 deaths in Panchkula. However, the on-ground status showed at least 11 bodies cremated during the day, reported India Today.
The flooded pyres are testimony that fatalities are higher than reported. Last week, the authorities of Sector-28 crematorium stopped accepting bodies for the last rites, citing full capacity, with seven bodies on the waiting list.
The discrepancy in COVID-19 fatality figures has been observed in 21 districts. The health authorities reported 112 deaths in Gurugram in April, whereas the crematorium recorded 1,350 bodies.
The official data stated nine deaths from the Bhiwani district on May 3; however, the cremation records show 11 funeral pyres.
In Panipat, close to 61 dead bodies of COVID-19 patients were cremated between May 1 and 3, but the official data stated 30 bodies. An NGO based in Jhajjar, Moksa Committee, claimed that nearly 20 bodies were cremated in several crematoriums in the district last month. The media bulletin at the time did not report a single death, the media reported.
Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, the government data showed 1,225 deaths from COVID-19 in April, however, according to the crematoria authorities, 3,814 bodies were cremated, thrice the official data.
Following the higher number of fatalities, the state government was pushed to create new crematoriums, besides the dedicated sites. Two crematoriums each were made in Panipat and Rohtak, while Jind and Kurukshetra set up one each.
Despite the ground reports, state health and sports minister Anil Vij refuted allegations of the government fudging the COVID-19 data. On the discrepancy, Vij told the media that the gap was because the deceased were residents of other states and were not added to the state death toll. Their bodies were cremated at the place where they died, the minister added.
"There is a technical reason why more bodies were cremated. People from other states are included in the fatality list of the states concerned. However, the bodies were cremated where the patients died," the media quoted him as saying.
Shortage Of Wood
The surge in COVID-19 fatalities in the second wave of COVID-19 also saw a rise in demand for wood at crematoriums, for which the government permitted the forest department to cut trees to meet the need. Crematoriums in and around Chandigarh have also reported a shortage of wood.