The Karnataka Civil Registration System (CRS) registered 1,67,788 excess deaths since the coronavirus pandemic hit (April 2020 – May 2021). This is 5.8 times the official reported figure of 29,090 deaths for the same period.
The months in which most deaths were reported is April 2021 (46,000) and May 2021 (77,000 and counting). This period also coincided with the second wave of the pandemic. During this period, the excess deaths were around 53,728, but the registered deaths were 16,523. Hence, there was an undercount factor of 3.25. As of June 22, the total COVID tally of the state is 34,164.
The CRS registered the month-wise number of deaths from January 2015 to May 2021. These excess deaths were calculated on the basis of this data, which The Hindu also accessed.
The excess deaths and undercount factor of Karnataka is similar to that of Tamil Nadu, which had 1,51,408 deaths and an undercount factor of 6.2. However, for 2021 alone, the undercount factors of both the states were (4.7 and 6.5, respectively). This was much lower than those of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh (34 and 42, respectively).
Fewer Deaths In Bengaluru
For the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, the CRS registered 40,264 deaths in 2020 and 75,441 deaths (till May) in 2021. This accounted for 31,029 estimated excess deaths.
However, till May 2021, the official COVID tally of the BBMP was 13,296. This results in an undercount factor of 2.33 for the city. This is significantly lower than that of cities like Kolkata (4.5), Chennai (5.6), and Hyderabad (17.5 - 30.5) for 2021 alone.
Reportedly, officials from the Statistics Department received orders from their seniors to not speak about the issue. Hence, specific death reports from Karnataka have become inaccessible. Although the officials have denied it, a reconciliation exercise is underway in many districts of Karnataka. It indicates a much higher toll than what had been earlier reported. Last week, the official death toll in Mysuru was said to be 1,910. After reconciliation, this number was revised to 3,300.
However, the officials do admit that the CRS data is just provisional. In rural areas, the reporting of death has always been gradual. Also, due to the pandemic, the data collection has been inefficient across 35,000 births and deaths registered in Karnataka. "Normally, rural areas do not report death immediately. Delayed registration has been a norm," said Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.
India has been accused of covering up COVID death figures. Last month, the Centre dismissed a New York Times report on COVID-19 toll in India as baseless and said it is not backed by any evidence.