Covid-19 deaths in Gujarat were massively under-reported, lending credence to claims during the second wave of the pandemic that the state was misrepresenting the figures, a new study has found. The findings, based on an analysis of month-wise health insurance claims from states during the last three months, found similar under-reporting in Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh.
The analysis was conducted by a public-private initiative. The findings, reported by Project: Jeevan Raksha, found that underreporting of pandemic-linked deaths in Gujarat was a staggering 5,722%. Under-reporting of deaths in Rajasthan was 473%, while the figure for Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh were 464% and 228%, respectively.
Data compiled from Gujarat government statistics during July, August, and September include only 23 deaths linked to the pandemic. However, there were 1,316 insurance claims — both group and individual schemes — for Covid-19 deaths.
During the same period, Jharkhand and Rajasthan reported 22 and 33 deaths related to Covid-19, while the insurance claims were 102 and 156, respectively.
Project: Jeevan Raksha Convenor Mysore Sanjeev told IE Online that several states seemed to have artificially deflated cases and deaths, particularly during the past three months.
Sanjeev said it was imperative to pragmatically view the sharp decline in the country’s Covid-19 caseload over the past few weeks against this backdrop.
He, however, believes that death toll data would be reconciled to a larger extent over the next few months after the Supreme Court ordered the disbursement of ex-gratia amount to the family members of the deceased.
The Union Health Ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research had framed guidelines to ensure a Rs 50,000 ex-gratia for each Covid-19 death.
Sanjeev said the team analysed the insurance claim data from the the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) database. All insurance companies report to the IRDAI’s General Insurance Council. The council shared the month-wise Covid-19 Health Insurance claim data for the research.
An analysis of data from Karnataka, it was found that underreporting was “substantially low” when compared to states in north India.
Sanjeev said Karnataka seemed to be more progressive in reporting deaths. He said the fact that considerable sections of the state’s population were insured could be a factor.
However, the observation in Kerala seems to be completely opposite.
Only 2% of the kin of Covid-19 victims have filed insurance claims in the past three months. Sanjeev said Kerala hospitals were not encouraging insurance claims for Covid-19 treatment, financially lynching beneficiaries and leading to fewer claims being made.