'Round-the-clock' cremations cast doubt on India's official Covid-19 mortality rate

Crematoriums have been receiving bodies far above the official death toll.

Matthias Ang | April 20, 2021, 10:20 PM

Non-stop cremations around India have cast doubt on the number of people who have died from Covid-19 in the country, Reuters reported.

Crematoriums receiving bodies far above the official death toll

Several crematoriums in Indian cities such as Lucknow, Surat and Bhopal have reported a spike in the number of cremations carried out for April, far above official Covid-19 mortality figures given.

Within Surat, Gujarat, two crematoriums said that they had more than 100 bodies on a daily basis for the previous week, in accordance with Covid-19 regulations.

The death toll from Covid-19 in the city officially stands at 25.

A trustee of Narayan Trust, which manages a third crematorium in the city, Prashant Kabrawala, said that cremations had recently tripled, although he did not give a specific number.

He added, "I have been regularly going to the crematorium since 1987, and been involved in its day-to-day functioning since 2005, but I haven't seen so many dead bodies coming for cremation in all these years."

Meanwhile, two crematoriums in Bhopal reported that 187 bodies were cremated in accordance with Covid-19 regulations in just four days, while the city's death toll from Covid-19 has been listed as five.

As for Lucknow, the city's largest crematorium was reported to have received double the number of bodies compared to the official Covid-19 death toll, for six different days in the month.

The BBC further noted that crematoriums have also been burning round the clock in the city while Indian media NDTV has questioned if the number of Covid-19 deaths has been underreported by authorities.

India's data in "denial": Indian professor

A professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, Bhramar Mukherjee, added that parts of India were in "data denial" with a lack of understanding about the situation on the ground, Reuters further reported.

Mukherjee further noted that it is impossible to to fully calculate the number of deaths by Covid-19, given that fewer than a quarter of all deaths in the country are medically certified, especially in rural areas.

As such, the actual mortality rate for as many as 24 of India's states may never be known.

Country experiences Covid-19 surge as religious festival goes on

India is currently experiencing a severe second wave of Covid-19.

Thus far, the country has reported over 15.3 million cases and more than 181,000 deaths.

Criticism has been directed in particular at the government's handling of the Kumbh Mela religious festival, which is held in the city of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India Today reported.

The festival went ahead, attracting millions of devotees, according to the BBC.

India's prime minister Narendra Modi has since requested for the festival to be held in a symbolic manner, amidst concerns that the religious festival could become a new "super-spreader" event.

Top photo by Yawar Nazir/Getty Images