Senior Congress leader and former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday, 15 May, slammed the central government over the issuance of 1.23 lakh death certificates between 1 March to 10 May this year in Gujarat and said that the government, in conjunction with some state governments, is suppressing the actual numbers of new infections and COVID-related deaths.
Virtually addressing a press conference, Chidambaram said, “On 14 May, Divya Bhaskar, a Gujarati language newspaper, published a news story that sent shock waves throughout Gujarat and the country.”
He said that the thrust of the story was that during the period 1 March to 10 May of this year (2021), Gujarat issued about 1,23,000 death certificates as against about 58,000 death certificates issued during the same period last year (2020).
“The increase was an alarming number of about 65,000 death certificates. This increase cannot be explained as a natural annual increase in the number of deaths. It can only be attributed to a pandemic or any other natural disaster,” the Congress leader said.
He said that the Congress had independently verified the two numbers referred to for the period of 71 days.
“We have collected the numbers from 33 districts (including the cities), the sum of the number of the death certificates nearly tallies with the numbers published by Divya Bhaskar - 1,23,873 in 2021 versus 58,068 in 2020,” he said.
“During the period 1 March, 2021 to 10 May, 2021, the government of Gujarat has officially admitted to only 4,218 COVID-related deaths,” he said.
“The difference between the increase in the number of death certificates (65,805) and the official COVID-related deaths (4,218) must be explained. It cannot be explained as ‘natural annual increase’ or ‘due to other causes’. We have a strong suspicion that the bulk of the increased number of deaths is due to COVID and the state government is suppressing the true number of COVID-related deaths,” Chidambaram said.
Hitting out at the government, Chidambaram said that the party's suspicions were confirmed by the fact that hundreds of unidentified bodies have been found floating on the river Ganga and nearly 2,000 unidentified bodies have been found buried on the sands along the river Ganga.
“We have a strong suspicion that the Government of India, in conjunction with some state governments, is suppressing the true numbers of new infections and COVID-related deaths,” he alleged.
“If our suspicions are true, this is a grave misdeed apart from being a national shame and a national tragedy,” he said.
Chidambaram said that Central government and the Gujarat government owe an explanation to the people of India. “We demand answers and an explanation,” he added.
Chidambaram also said that the National Human Rights Commission should collect the true numbers from every state about the death certificate issued last year and this year.
(Published in an arrangement with IANS.)
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