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Huge undercounting of Bihar Covid deaths. JD(U) says audit only shows transparency

An audit in Bihar has found about 4,000 Covid deaths that had not been recorded earlier, showing massive undercounting and prompting the Opposition to accuse the state government of lying. India Today TV Consulting Editor Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to ruling JD(U) leader Ajay Alok who says the audit only shows transparency. Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Doesn’t this expose the worst-kept secret? Isn’t it a massive and deliberate underreporting of Covid deaths?

Bihar is the first state that’s revising its number based on its district-wise audit. The chief secretary himself held a press conference and acknowledged the revised tally. We will also give compensation to those who have died post-Covid. Still, you’re saying that we have been exposed? Does anyone in politics expose himself? Show me one state that’s done what we have done.

Read | Bihar toll surges 73% after Covid-19 death audit

Q: Isn’t it true that after news channels like India Today showed how bodies were floating in the Ganga, the High Court intervened, demanded an audit and then your government woke up?

We were busy preventing infections and saving lives. The death audit was definitely delayed. So, a committee was constituted that collected data from all districts and submitted it to the government. The work is not over. All other states should take lessons from us and come out with revised numbers. The question is not being asked to others.

Read | River of sorrow: The mystery of bodies floating in Ganga

Q: Your government said the case fatality rate is low and Covid is under control. And now you have been exposed because the High Court ordered you to do an audit

No, no, many other states are doing audits. But the reports are not the same. The classic example is where you’re sitting. There is an undercounting of 21,000 deaths. Can you find that kind of difference in Bihar? No. The death audit must be authentic. Where are other states like Rajasthan and Maharashtra that have done audits? We have done it for ourselves. We don’t want applause for that. There was no High Court order. There is a difference between an order and observations. No High Court told us to do an audit. The court asked us about the difference in death numbers. It was an observation and not an order. The Bihar government is responsible and we’re doing our job.

Q: Many deaths are being shown as caused by pneumonia or other comorbidities. There are fears that the real toll could still be higher

We have not hidden the numbers. We’re the only state that’s written to the Centre that we’re treating those as Covid positive whose RT-PCR reports are negative but CT-Scans show Covid features. We’re doing everything very scientifically. This is not the final number. The number can go up.

Read | Coronavirus: 75% cases of deaths in patients aged 60 yrs and above, 83% have co-morbidities

Q: Are you saying Bihar has Covid under control?

The data that’s now been submitted is perfect. The audit has taken 20 days. Many private hospitals have not updated numbers on their portals. They have been served notice that they will face action if they don’t do so in 24 hours. Those district officials who have delayed the data heads will roll. The Bihar government has been honest and transparent since Day 1. We’re also preparing for the third wave.

Read | Bihar govt revises Covid deaths by 72% after HC-ordered audit

Read | India records 6,148 Covid deaths in 24 hours after Bihar revises tally

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