For evolving the best possible  policy response to an ongoing pandemic it is very important to monitor the available data and take the most rational decisions based on this.

In this context the increased overall mortality recorded from March to May in particular is very disturbing and needs urgent attention of the authorities, with a view to understanding this reality,  sharing it and evolving effective response.

Very recently available data indicates that from March 2021 onwards there is a discernible rise in mortality and by May this takes the form of even higher increase,with extremely high rise in mortality being recorded in some places, as seen in terms of deaths recorded in the civil registration system( CRS).

In Madhya Pradesh, for instance, the number of deaths recorded in CRS in May 2021 has been between 4 to 5 times more than what was the norm during this month in the previous 3 years ( around 160,000 compared to around 31,000 ). If we see the figures from the beginning of 2021 then we see that mortality figures have on the whole increased very considerably compared to norm ( approximately double of the norm ) but in May there is further sudden rise.

In the case of Gujarat the CRS data for this state for a period of 71 days from March 1 to May 10 2021 indicates that the total mortality during this period was about double compared to the previous year.

This CRS data for MP and Gujarat were first highlighted by Bhaskar ( Hindi) and Divya Bhaskar ( Gujarati) newspapers respectively. One response for Gujarat from government  has been that some deaths may have been recorded more than once. Other analysts have argued that the base figure in Gujarat should have been higher for purpose of comparison , but even with this change a 50% rise was reported.

On the whole, however, there is enough indication of a big increase in May being a reality and this situation should be carefully analyzed for its policy implications. These excess deaths are likely to be caused by a mix of several  factors but only more detailed data and rigorous analysis will reveal the precise contribution of various factors at  play. The government should play a leading role in making clear the correct position.

On the one hand there is the threat from Covid-19. On the other hand it is a fact that during the last 15 months or so under-nutrition and malnutrition, poverty and deprivation, exposure to extreme weather and mental stress  have increased greatly. Then there is the important factor that due to overwhelming priority given to Covid related aspects in the entire medical care system ( as well as due to lockdowns and movement restrictions)the treatment available for other serious diseases as well as injuries has declined significantly.

Hence an overall significant increase in mortality due to the combined impact of all these factors is only to be expected. But when within this established trend of excess mortality  there is a further big spurt, then even more care is needed for understanding its various aspects more clearly.

Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth For Children.



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