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Huge mismatch between Gujarat’s Covid records and data from crematoria, cemeteries

Despite ranking among the top three states in terms of vaccination drive, the state’s data in terms of Covid-deaths barely accounts for even 10 percent of the actual data presented on-ground.

Vallari Sanzgiri 02 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:businesstoday.in

Three months into the second wave of Covid-19, newspapers continue to document the gulf-like disparity between the government Covid-data and on-ground reports. Such is the difference between the two numbers that media reports claim Surat's crematorium data records 11 times more Covid-deaths than official figures.

According to Reuters, at least seven cemeteries, including graveyards, in the city conducted more than three-fold cremations and burials in April compared with a year ago. Site visits and logs revealed 6,520 deaths in April compared to 1,980 deaths in the same month last year. Yet, the administration recognises only 585 Covid-deaths for both city and district toll.

Similarly, Surat’s renowned Ashwini Kumar crematorium claimed 3,129 cremations in April, Trustee Prashant Kabrawala told the news agency. Last year in April, the same place conducted 1,200 cremations. Workers at the crematorium reported incessant arrival of bodies even at night with nine gas crematoriums working non-stop.

The consequences of such stress on infrastructure were survived by people at the Kurukshetra crematorium where a chimney collapsed due to overheating as furnaces ran without break for a prolonged period of time. As per records, the facility cremated over 100 bodies a day on several days. Another place in Umra area, recorded 874 deaths in April, 2021 as opposed to 212 bodies in April, 2020.

Meanwhile, four Muslim burial grounds said that workers had to hire mechanical excavators to keep up with demand. The largest one in Surat, Gore Gariba Kabrastan, said burials spiked to an all-time high of 91 bodies in April 2021. According to Secretary and Managing Trustee Aiyub Mohamed Yacoobali the average number of burials prior to the second wave was around 20 burials per month.

Later in May, The Wire reported severe space constraints for two small graveyards in Muslim-populated Juhapura in Ahmedabad district. Steadily decreasing labour force resulted in a six-hour waiting period for a burial. Grave diggers that are joined by volunteers end up working till 3 AM.

Last year, mechanical excavators dug the ground at Namara Chhota Kabrastan as deep as 10 feet. Workers are now digging up the same spots six feet deep to bury this year’s casualties. As for Christian and Parsi communities in the state, members agreed to cremate their dead instead of conventional burials.

Recently, local Gujarati paper Gujarat Samachar announced 783 official deaths recorded during the first five months of the year at Modasa town of Aravalli district. Journalist Deepak Patel, who has been vigilantly recording the gaps between state and newspaper obituaries, stated that in the pre-pandemic era, the town noted an average of 60 deaths per month. This means that there are nearly 483 deaths in 2021 that have not been accounted for by officials.

Moreover, the state government data states 74 Covid-death in the whole Aravalli district between 2020 and 2021, even though there are more than 680 villages in the area. On June 2, Patel noted that 750 bodies were cremated as per Covid protocol at a cremation ground in Navsari, Gujarat within the last 2 months. However, Gujarat official data only recognised 23 people who died due to Covid-19 in the area.

Reports comparing obituary entries and government figures have become routine reports. Most recent data sourced from Gujarat Samchar of June 1 alone shows the significance of such articles in the state:

District

Gujarat Samachar deaths

Official deaths

Gandhinagar

5

0

Vadodara

35

3

Kheda

8

0

Surat

12 (at least)

3

Bharuch

6 (at least)

0

All

66 (at least)

6

Aside from this, the newspaper also recorded 34 Covid-deaths in Jamnagar, Rajkot and Gir Somnath districts on Tuesday while government data showed only five deaths in the three places. Similarly, Navsari and Valsad reported five Covid-deaths but government figures did not note any of these deaths.

Using such data, Patel also created a detailed table that compared data collated using Sandesh newspaper reports and Gujarat government information from April 25 to May 24.

What about vaccination?

On May 5, experts had questioned government data that showed 60 percent of the 86,023 people vaccinated by then were administered in Gujarat. Indeed, Gujarat is among the nine states that has vaccinated more than one crore people in its jurisdiction.

However, this huge lead has not helped the state considering Gujarat ranks only third in terms of number of vaccinations.

Maharashtra, leading in terms of vaccination, records 2,30,24,889 doses while Gujarat has conducted only 1,74, 53,553 doses in all. Even compared to Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat lags behind by more than 15 lakh doses.

The state is also not exempt from peculiarities such as incidents wherein people who had died years ago have been declared as vaccinated. According to India Today, more than 10 such cases have been observed so far. Among them, a man named Natwarlal Desai died in 2011. Angered families have demanded an investigation into the matter.

As of June 1, Covid19India records 8,10,730 confirmed cases with 29,015 confirmed cases and 9,855 deaths. Including the 60 outstanding deaths mentioned by Gujarat Samachar on Tuesday, this brings the death toll to at least 9,915 deaths.

Related:

Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?
Did Gujarat get preference over other states in Covid vaccination for 18-44 year olds?
Anger simmers as bodies pile up outside crematoria in Gujarat
Are obituaries in Gujarat newspapers a better indicator of real Covid-deaths?

Huge mismatch between Gujarat’s Covid records and data from crematoria, cemeteries

Despite ranking among the top three states in terms of vaccination drive, the state’s data in terms of Covid-deaths barely accounts for even 10 percent of the actual data presented on-ground.

Image Courtesy:businesstoday.in

Three months into the second wave of Covid-19, newspapers continue to document the gulf-like disparity between the government Covid-data and on-ground reports. Such is the difference between the two numbers that media reports claim Surat's crematorium data records 11 times more Covid-deaths than official figures.

According to Reuters, at least seven cemeteries, including graveyards, in the city conducted more than three-fold cremations and burials in April compared with a year ago. Site visits and logs revealed 6,520 deaths in April compared to 1,980 deaths in the same month last year. Yet, the administration recognises only 585 Covid-deaths for both city and district toll.

Similarly, Surat’s renowned Ashwini Kumar crematorium claimed 3,129 cremations in April, Trustee Prashant Kabrawala told the news agency. Last year in April, the same place conducted 1,200 cremations. Workers at the crematorium reported incessant arrival of bodies even at night with nine gas crematoriums working non-stop.

The consequences of such stress on infrastructure were survived by people at the Kurukshetra crematorium where a chimney collapsed due to overheating as furnaces ran without break for a prolonged period of time. As per records, the facility cremated over 100 bodies a day on several days. Another place in Umra area, recorded 874 deaths in April, 2021 as opposed to 212 bodies in April, 2020.

Meanwhile, four Muslim burial grounds said that workers had to hire mechanical excavators to keep up with demand. The largest one in Surat, Gore Gariba Kabrastan, said burials spiked to an all-time high of 91 bodies in April 2021. According to Secretary and Managing Trustee Aiyub Mohamed Yacoobali the average number of burials prior to the second wave was around 20 burials per month.

Later in May, The Wire reported severe space constraints for two small graveyards in Muslim-populated Juhapura in Ahmedabad district. Steadily decreasing labour force resulted in a six-hour waiting period for a burial. Grave diggers that are joined by volunteers end up working till 3 AM.

Last year, mechanical excavators dug the ground at Namara Chhota Kabrastan as deep as 10 feet. Workers are now digging up the same spots six feet deep to bury this year’s casualties. As for Christian and Parsi communities in the state, members agreed to cremate their dead instead of conventional burials.

Recently, local Gujarati paper Gujarat Samachar announced 783 official deaths recorded during the first five months of the year at Modasa town of Aravalli district. Journalist Deepak Patel, who has been vigilantly recording the gaps between state and newspaper obituaries, stated that in the pre-pandemic era, the town noted an average of 60 deaths per month. This means that there are nearly 483 deaths in 2021 that have not been accounted for by officials.

Moreover, the state government data states 74 Covid-death in the whole Aravalli district between 2020 and 2021, even though there are more than 680 villages in the area. On June 2, Patel noted that 750 bodies were cremated as per Covid protocol at a cremation ground in Navsari, Gujarat within the last 2 months. However, Gujarat official data only recognised 23 people who died due to Covid-19 in the area.

Reports comparing obituary entries and government figures have become routine reports. Most recent data sourced from Gujarat Samchar of June 1 alone shows the significance of such articles in the state:

District

Gujarat Samachar deaths

Official deaths

Gandhinagar

5

0

Vadodara

35

3

Kheda

8

0

Surat

12 (at least)

3

Bharuch

6 (at least)

0

All

66 (at least)

6

Aside from this, the newspaper also recorded 34 Covid-deaths in Jamnagar, Rajkot and Gir Somnath districts on Tuesday while government data showed only five deaths in the three places. Similarly, Navsari and Valsad reported five Covid-deaths but government figures did not note any of these deaths.

Using such data, Patel also created a detailed table that compared data collated using Sandesh newspaper reports and Gujarat government information from April 25 to May 24.

What about vaccination?

On May 5, experts had questioned government data that showed 60 percent of the 86,023 people vaccinated by then were administered in Gujarat. Indeed, Gujarat is among the nine states that has vaccinated more than one crore people in its jurisdiction.

However, this huge lead has not helped the state considering Gujarat ranks only third in terms of number of vaccinations.

Maharashtra, leading in terms of vaccination, records 2,30,24,889 doses while Gujarat has conducted only 1,74, 53,553 doses in all. Even compared to Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat lags behind by more than 15 lakh doses.

The state is also not exempt from peculiarities such as incidents wherein people who had died years ago have been declared as vaccinated. According to India Today, more than 10 such cases have been observed so far. Among them, a man named Natwarlal Desai died in 2011. Angered families have demanded an investigation into the matter.

As of June 1, Covid19India records 8,10,730 confirmed cases with 29,015 confirmed cases and 9,855 deaths. Including the 60 outstanding deaths mentioned by Gujarat Samachar on Tuesday, this brings the death toll to at least 9,915 deaths.

Related:

Covid-19: Which Indian states failed miserably in tackling the pandemic?
Did Gujarat get preference over other states in Covid vaccination for 18-44 year olds?
Anger simmers as bodies pile up outside crematoria in Gujarat
Are obituaries in Gujarat newspapers a better indicator of real Covid-deaths?

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