India has one of the "lowest" 374 COVID-19 deaths per million population, according to the World Health Organisation, compared to similarly affected countries like the USA, Brazil, Russia and Mexico, the government said on Tuesday.
In a written reply, Minister of State for Health Bharati Pravin Pawar told the Rajya Sabha that at times, certain reports have speculated excess deaths, that is, higher than the official number of COVID-19 fatalities reported by India.
"These reports have mostly relied on unvalidated methodologies, or data sources used to derive ‘estimates’ are not reliable. In most of these studies, the results have been obtained using mathematical modelling techniques from a limited sample of small sub-population subgroups which is extrapolated to the entire country," she said.
The minister was responding to a question on recent reports showing India having the highest number of deaths during the Covid pandemic and whether the official death toll does not match the data on the civil registration system.
"According to the data available with World Health Organisation (WHO), India has one of the lowest deaths per million (374 deaths per million population) which is much lower compared to similarly affected countries like the United States of America (2,920 deaths per million population), Brazil (3,092 deaths per million population), Russia (2,506 deaths per million population) and Mexico (2,498 deaths per million population)," she mentioned in her reply.
In the context of COVID-19 pandemic, detailed guidelines for reporting of deaths have been issued by the Union health ministry to all states and Union territories (UTs). The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) had on May 10, 2020 issued ‘Guidance for appropriate recording of COVID-19 related deaths in India’.
Accordingly, all states/UTs report cases and deaths to the health ministry and the same is also put in public domain on a regular basis.
A large number of states have regularly reconciled their death numbers and have reported arrear deaths in a broadly transparent manner, Pawar said.
Furthermore, it must be noted that there is a monetary incentive in India to report COVID-19 deaths as they are entitled to ex-gratia compensation.
India has a robust Civil Registration System (CRS) and Sample Registration System (SRS) which predates the COVID-19 pandemic and covers all states/UTs. The registration of deaths in the country is done under the Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act, 1969 by functionaries appointed by the state government, she added.