With Haryana forced to impose a week-long lockdown due to the increase in the number of cases, the gap between the official death toll and the actual number of deaths is also widening. On May 3, Haryana recorded the highest number of 12,885 fresh cases with 140 deaths.
But the real figures seem to be telling a different story. The number of COVID-19 patients who have died and are being cremated or buried in Haryana is reportedly much higher than what the official statistics are showing.
Let’s take a look at Panipat district of Haryana. According to the Haryana government daily bulletin, Panipat recorded nine deaths on May 3. However, according to the crematorium service, 16 bodies, which were COVID-19 positive, were cremated yesterday.
According to the data gathered by NewsClick in Panipat over the last three days, it has been revealed that the government has reported only half of the deaths. According to the government’s statistics, there were nine deaths in Panipat on May 2, but 14 COVID-19 bodies were cremated, as per the crematorium facility. On May 1, 31 COVID-19 bodies were cremated while the government data showed only 12.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in India last year, Chaman Lal Gulati has been cremating/burying COVID-19 dead bodies in Panipat. He is affiliated with the Jan Seva Dal, an organisation tasked with cremating and burying COVID-19 bodies in Panipat. Speaking with NewsClick, Gulati said that the government is concealing the real death toll.
“We are cremating/burying twice as many people as the government is displaying in Panipat. We bury and cremate following COVID-19 protocols and according to the wishes of the family. Few people want to do rituals (for last rites) and far fewer want to do it in some other way. We do as they want,” Gulati told NewsClick.
Gulati claimed that since the morning of May 4, he has cremated 12 COVID- bodies and that four more are in the waiting. The total number of COVID-19-related deaths is 228 according to government records, while the crematorium claims 440 COVID-19 deaths in Panipat in April and the first three days of May.
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In Bhiwani district of Haryana, as per the government data, nine people died of COVID-19 on May 3, whereas the crematoria told NewsClick that 11 COVID-19 bodies were cremated.
“In the name of dead bodies, the government is deceiving the public. In the hospitals, there are no beds available. On a regular basis, people are dying while the figures are hidden. I've sent a letter to the higher authorities. I would take my case to the High Court if nothing is done,” said Brijpal Singh of Swastha Shikasha Sahyog Sangathan, an organisation tasked with cremating and burying bodies in Bhiwani district.
In Haryana’s Jajjhar district, no COVID-19 death was reported in the government daily bulletin, while the crematorium has claimed that 20 bodies were cremated. “There are 12 Shamshanghats (crematoria) in Jajjhar. Around 20 COVID-19 bodies were cremated in Jajjhar by Nagar Nigams. Government doesn’t want the public to know the real situation,” alleged Surender Chugh from Moksha Committee which keeps a track of COVID-19 deaths in the district.
According to reports, the government's total of 1,225 COVID-19 deaths in April is three times lower than the data provided by the crematoria. As per the crematorium facilities, owing to the increase in the number of deaths from COVID-19 in the month of April, the number of grounds for cremation were also increased.
On April 20, two new crematorium grounds were provided to Panipat, according to Gulati. “The ground at the crematorium, which we call Swarg Puri, where we were cremating bodies could hold up to 20 bodies. The two new crematoria that have been given to us can each hold 15 bodies,” he said.
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In Rohtak, two new crematoria were constructed in the same way. The third crematorium in Haryana's Jind district was set aside for COVID-19 deaths. In Kurukshetra, owing to the rising number of deaths, 27 crematoriums and cemeteries have been designated for those dying of COVID-19.
Meanwhile in Ambala district, the large number of death bodies had increased the pressure on the restricted cremation spaces. As a result of which, several corpses were left half-burned after being extinguished.
The number of deaths in Gurgaon, too, has risen dramatically. According to the reports, there is a significant disparity between official estimates and actual results. According to government figures, 112 people died as a result of COVID-19 in April in the bordering district of Delhi, but the number of deaths reported by the crematorium service was 1,350. The number of deaths in the district grew so quickly that the bodies had to be cremated in the crematorium's parking lot.
Haryana has 22 districts and each district has reported data discrepancies. According to a report in the popular Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, the government statistics showed 1,225 deaths from COVID-19 in April, however, according to the crematoria authorities, 3,814 bodies have been cremated following COVID-19 protocols in the month which is thrice the data mentioned by the government.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had previously described the massive increase in COVID-19 cases as a "unexpected tsunami." “One expects that floods can come during the rainy season, but no one expects a tsunami,” he had said.
So, why is the government withholding the death toll? According to experts, the number of COVID-19 death figures are being understated in order for the government to avoid accountability. Initially, the government said that all was under control; now, they are attempting to keep up the pretence.
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