Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday praised the Uttar Pradesh government for successfully handling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
“UP’s handling of the second wave of Covid-19 has been unparalleled,” he claimed at an event in Varanasi, NDTV reported.
So far, Uttar Pradesh has recorded over 17 lakh coronavirus cases and 22,704 deaths.
However, last month, data from the Civil Registration System showed that 24 districts in the state recorded 1,97,000 more deaths between July 2020 and March 2021 than in the corresponding period the previous year. The mortality rate was 110% higher than the same period the previous year. The number of deaths was 43 times higher than the official Covid-19 toll in these nine months.
This does not even factor in the peak of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which hit India in April and May. Although not all of the excess deaths would be from Covid-19, the diversion of healthcare resources for people with the coronavirus disease meant many patients with other ailments may have failed to access treatment.
During the peak of the second wave, reports emerged of bodies piling up at the state’s crematoriums and severe shortage of oxygen and beds in hospitals. Private testing labs in state capital Lucknow turned away residents, saying they received “orders from the administration to not test”. Additionally, images of bodies of Covid patients floating in rivers or buried in sand along riverbeds had triggered outrage.
Several Bharatiya Janata Party ministers and MLAs have also voiced grievances against their own government.
Despite this, the prime minister on Thursday claimed that Uttar Pradesh had “stood up and battled the virus efficiently”. “The mutated and dangerous form of the coronavirus had attacked with all its might. But entire UP, including Kashi [Varanasi], faced the problem with all its full ability,” he added, according to PTI.
Addressing the event, Modi also said that Uttar Pradesh was conducting the maximum number of Covid tests. “Today, UP has done the maximum vaccinations in the country,” he added.
The prime minister’s comments came a day after the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government for allowing the Kanwar Yatra amid the coronavirus pandemic. The court took suo motu cognisance of the matter.
“The citizens of India are completely perplexed,” the court had said. “They do not know what is going on. And all this as the prime minister, when asked about the third wave of Covid-19, said we cannot compromise even one bit.”
In June, BJP’s National General Secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh led a central mission to Lucknow for review meetings. This was the first time that senior BJP leaders and ministers participated in such meetings since Adityanath became the chief minister in 2017.
There was speculation that Adityanath would be removed as Uttar Pradesh chief minister because of poor handling of the health crisis. But, BJP Vice President Radha Mohan Singh also claimed that the state government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was “unparalleled”.