Reconciliation Of Data Not Helping Kin Of Dead Reconcile

If only data and information were actually made more transparent, such reconciliation would not be needed, nor would there be the need to take desperate measures for survival.

Across India there have been instances of municipal corporations and governments hiding data regarding the coronavirus cases and the numbers of those vaccinated. Varying information, discrepancies in reporting cases or as in the case of Maharashtra, ‘reconciliation of data’. Reconciliation of data is not fudging and having said that, it has caused a lot of discomfort for obvious reasons. By and large much to the chagrin of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government, the Maharashtra model in tackling the covid-19 pandemic has come to be accepted as exemplary.

Mumbai model

The fact is, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has an excellent ward system to run the corporation at the micro-level, demarcating every area and hence all the utilities, health services of each area are included in it. It was just as easy for the BMC to run a ward war room. (Why is every action connected to ‘war’-like situation in normal parlance, is a grouse I have with the BJP, a party that has been using the word rather loosely). A team of officials from Delhi Government (AAP) visited Mumbai to study this model and replicate it, especially the ward war room, jumbo covid centres and the local interventions made to control the pandemic. Delhi officials said, ‘The work done by BMC is exemplary and the Mumbai model will be implemented in Delhi’.


BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal addressing press last year at the start of “Mission Zero”.


The entire process, be it for a patient or those wanting to be vaccinated is well-run by the corporation that has been tarred for the pathetic condition of roads, for the slipshod filling of potholes and the corruption in that sector. Most naysayers too have swung in favour of the BMC, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and the running of Maha Vikas Aghadi government. If Mumbaikars are asked today which state or city they would choose to live in the times of Covid, the majority would say Maharashtra and Mumbai, for the way the pandemic has been handled and also the smooth functioning of vaccine drive across the city.

Data Reconciliation

But then, how could it be our BMC without running into a pothole, right? The civic body recently released data on Covid-19 cases. Suddenly, the fatality rate, which was 3 per cent, climbed to 5.66 per cent. As a result, the mortality rate in the state is higher than the national mortality rate, which is 3 per cent. However, this data correction reconciliation, as the BMC calls it, has led to much confusion and worse still, caused fresh distress to especially the families who lost loved ones to corona and had to come to terms with it. Just imagine, a close family member losing their life battling Covid-19 and until their last rites were performed, Covid protocol was followed, only for the family for whom the loss is irreconcilable to learn that the death of their loved one was not even counted among the fatalities. For the many who have been complaining about the media emphasising on statistics, the number of dead, the patients and how the faces and the real stories are missing, this data reconciliation process is a whole story by itself.


Maharashtra’s COVID-19 deaths surge by 8,840 after data reconciliation; toll now 1,08,333.


While the data is being reconciled, people who have lost their dear ones are unable to. Data reconciliation basically means data verification, which we were told was happening all the time. So, when a test is done in either private or government-approved laboratories and hospitals, the information is sent to the BMC, which has been collating all data. Now, we are hearing that data reconciliation is unavoidable. This has given the opposition parties in Maharashtra, mainly the Bharatiya Janata Party, sufficient ammo to fire at the BMC and Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis blamed the government and BMC officials, saying the names of over 900 people who had died of corona, were missing, calling it a ‘risky’ matter. Between May 17-28, 28,11,712 deaths were added to the total list of number of deaths in Maharashtra. Initially, 6,622 were recorded in the daily updates, while 5,090 were updated after ‘data reconciliation’ or re-verification. Worse, this process of re-verification and ‘data reconciliation’ was attributed to technical glitches or to overworked staff. Yes, these may be genuine reasons and to give the devil its due, the BMC has kept the data transparent. One major fallout of this data being made public is that the Central government has been blaming Maharashtra for being ‘super spreader’ of the virus and being the hotspot for corona, as obviously, the state’s numbers were the highest.

Data sharing

The way the babus run our system often gets our goat. The loose ends and loopholes give them many an opportunity to get away. Speaking of data, somehow India’s mindset is still stuck in the colonial era, which believed that no information should be shared and everything was an ‘official secret’. By and large, with the introduction of the Right to Information Act, which, by the way, the pathological fasting crusader Anna Hazare with ample support from the BJP made it mandatory for every state to implement has helped citizens to be better informed. Despite having presented us with this, our Central government does not believe in sharing authentic data, keeping this data ‘safe’ and it does seem as if most of the BJP-ruled state governments have followed this diktat.


1 Lakh fake Covid test reports were made during Kumbh Mela by an agency that was tasked to carry Covid-19 tests at the congregation.


Take the case of the Kumbh Mela – now, we are getting reports that most of the RT-PCR tests conducted during Kumbh were false! Obviously, as Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar had said, the virus has been spread like ‘prasad’, each being the carrier of corona. According to a preliminary probe by the Uttarakhand health department, many of the four lakh tests carried out during the Kumbh Mela were fake. But this is not the first and last state. Take the state of Gujarat – from November 2020 toApril this year, laboratories have been sealed for giving fake RT PCR reports. As if this were not enough, in May 2021, a fake Remdesivir racket too was busted. Obviously now, one will never know the actual figure of active corona cases, the number of dead and the number of recoveries made. The reputation of our country is at stake; many Indian students who want to travel or study abroad have fake RT-PCR test reports and this was exposed in April this year. This entire exercise of tweaking and hiding cases, and not making it public in many cases, is NOT helping anyone. Then, there is the example of Bharat Biotech. It is the first company to publish any data on clinical trials conducted on humans from India for Covaxin. It shared all its data on the indigenous vaccine. While CEO Krishna Ella criticised the Serum Institute of India, maker of the AstraZeneca vaccine. He claims, data on Covishield has not been made public and the side effects that people have suffered are being covered up by giving them paracetamol. This has been a fact, many who have taken the AstraZeneca vaccine have been asked to take paracetamol and medical doctors have cautioned against the use of paracetamol. But instead, we have a Central government taskforce, which has not come out and informed the citizens what is involved in the process of the US approving a vaccine for emergency use authorisation and whether its being rejected is a setback. Moreover, why has Covaxin been rejected and has the Government of India undertaken diplomatic efforts to get the approval and why is it that on the one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi thumped his chest saying India was the manufacturer of two corona vaccines and more were in offing, but has not stood on one foot to get the emergency use nod for Covaxin? The Covid management taskforce has claimed AstraZeneca is the ‘backbone’ of the country. This sort of double talk has led to massive confusion and fear among citizens. Is Covaxin useful, or not? What happens to those who have taken this vaccine and now cannot travel abroad? Much worse, many students having landed on US campuses are facing the prospect of revaccination for this reason. If only data and information were actually made more transparent, such reconciliation would not be needed, nor would there be the need to take desperate measures for survival.



Neeta Kolhatkar is a senior journalist with over 30 years of work experience across different media platforms. She is currently a freelancer and media consultant.

(Views Expressed Are Personal)

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