The number of registered deaths in India rose by 6.2% from 76.4 lakh in 2019 to 81.2 lakh in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, Civil Registration System data released by the office of the Registrar General showed on Tuesday.

The data shows that 4.75 lakh more deaths were registered in the country in 2020, as compared to 2019. However, it does not specify how many of the total deaths registered were due to coronavirus.

About 1.49 lakh people had died due to coronavirus in 2020, according to the toll recorded by the Union health ministry. By Wednesday morning, 5,23,920 deaths have been recorded due to the disease.

Source: Civil Registration System

The Civil Registration System data was released on Tuesday amid a dispute over India’s exact Covid-19 death count.

On April 16, The New York Times had reported that Indian officials were delaying the publication of a report by the World Health Organization that is expected to place estimated mortality from Covid-19 at 40 lakh as of the end of 2021, about eight times India’s officially reported coronavirus toll of 4,80,000.

The Indian government, however, contested the global health body’s estimate and questioned its methodology. The World Health Organization’s estimate will be published on Thursday.

On Tuesday, NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul said that the Civil Registration System data shows that there is no rationale for using “modelling-driven estimates based on pure conjectures and assumptions”, PTI reported.

He said the data will help to debunk the allegations that India is massively under-reporting Covid-19 deaths. The health official also claimed modelling can lead to “absurd estimation”.

Paul, who has overseen the management of the pandemic, also stressed that rise in excess death registration has been noted in previous years despite declining death rate and no outbreaks.

“So, we must remember that extra deaths are not due to Covid-19 deaths, but there are other reasons and causes as well,” he added.

The Civil Registration System data showed that Maharashtra, Bihar, Gujarat, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, and Haryana have contributed significantly to the rise in deaths registered from 2019 to 2020.

Unidentified officials told PTI that many of the deaths in these states were due to the coronavirus disease.

Registered births, the data said, declined from 2.48 crore in 2019 to 2.42 crore in 2020. These figures, however, do not indicate the actual number of births and deaths in India in 2020, but only those that have been registered.