Haryana reported 60,397 excess deaths between April 2020 and May this year, The Hindu reported on Thursday, citing data from the state’s civil registration system. The number is 7.3 times higher than the official Covid-19 toll of 8,303 in Haryana during the same period.

Excess deaths is the divergence between all-cause deaths reported this year and in normal years. While all excess deaths are not likely to be due to Covid-19, a majority of them are expected to be linked to the coronavirus disease during the pandemic. The diversion of healthcare resources for people with Covid-19 meant that many patients with other ailments may have failed to access treatment.

As many as 46,283 of the total 60,397 excess deaths occurred in the months of April and May this year, which coincided with the peak of the second wave of the coronavirus in India. This was nine times the official Covid-19 toll (5,148) during these two months.

India’s official Covid-19 toll is widely considered to be an underestimate of the actual number of deaths that occurred in the country. To estimate the scale of this, researchers have used data from the Civil Registration System to calculate and understand the difference between deaths registered during the pandemic years – 2020 and 2021 – and other years.

The Civil Registration System is a nationwide system of recording all births and deaths, led by the Office of the Registrar General of India, and also implemented at the state-level. The system is meant to record deaths from all causes and every location, whether they were medically certified or not.

The number of excess deaths in Haryana was calculated on monthly death numbers registered online on the Civil Registration System between January 2018 and May 2021.

This number could go higher as the audit of the fatalities is an ongoing process.

“The discrepancy in deaths is a matter of debate,” Haryana’s Covid-19 nodal officer Dhruva Chaudhary told The Hindu. “We have nothing to hide, and all deaths are being reported. The death audit mechanism is a constant process, and we are doing it. Every single death is accountable in Haryana.”

Data for six states – Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh – show that 7,32,698 excess deaths were recorded between April 2020 and May 2021, according to The Hindu. This is nearly eight times the official Covid-19 tally for these states (90,577) for the same period.

In fact, the toll for just these six states is nearly 78% higher than India’s total official count of 4,11,989 since the pandemic started in January 2020.

Underreporting of Covid-19 deaths

Latest data from the National Health Mission’s Health Management Information System shows that nearly 3 lakh more deaths occurred in May, compared to May 2019. This figure is more than 2.5 times India’s official Covid-19 death count for the same period.

More than 2.5 lakh of the over 4,92,000 adult deaths recorded in May across the country were from “causes not known”. The biggest increases over a similar period in pre-pandemic times were in deaths from “fever” and “respiratory diseases”, both symptoms of coronavirus.

In the past couple of months, similar data on excess deaths has emerged for states such as Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

In Bihar, for instance, the Civil Registration System showed that 1.3 lakh deaths were reported between January and May 2019. For the same period this year, the toll was almost 2.2 lakh.

Twenty-four districts in Uttar Pradesh recorded 1.97 lakh 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.

Andhra Pradesh reported over 1.3 lakh deaths in May, which is nearly five times the usual number of deaths reported in the month.

CRS data for Madhya Pradesh accessed by Scroll.in showed that the state saw over 1,60,000 reported deaths in May 2021, or nearly five times the usual number of reported deaths in 2018 and 2019.