Twenty-four districts in Uttar Pradesh recorded 1,97,000 more deaths between July 2020 and March 2021 than in the corresponding period the previous year, Article 14 reported on Monday. 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.

The data obtained by Article 14 from the Civil Registration System does not 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.

Data showed that these 24 of 75 districts in Uttar Pradesh recorded around 1,78,000 deaths between July 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020, according to Article 14. For the same time period in 2020-21, deaths increased to 3,75,000.

However, the Adityanath government’s official Covid-19 toll stood at 4,537 since the pandemic broke out in January 2021 to the end of March 2021.

The Civil Registration System data obtained by Article 14 provided figures for the districts of Moradabad, Rampur, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Aligarh, Mathura, Agra, Firozabad, Bareilly, Pilibhit, Kheri, Unnao, Lucknow, Kanpur Dehat, Kanpur Nagar, Jhansi, Pratapgarh, Amethi, Balrampur, Basti, Balia, Ghazipur and Sonbhadra.

In Amethi, data showed that 13,000 more people had died between July 2020 and March 2021 than in the previous corresponding period. This was an increase of 1,700%. The official Covid-19 toll till March end was 39.

State capital Lucknow recorded over 30,200 excess deaths. This was 524% more than in the corresponding period in 2019-’20. The official Covid-19 toll in Lucknow was 1,211 till the end of March.

In the eastern district of Ghazipur, where bodies were found floating in river Ganga during the second wave, around 19,700 people died from July 2020 to March 2021. This is a jump of 1,136% from the same time period in 2019-’20, when 1,600 deaths were reported.

The state government’s official Covid-19 toll for the district was 92.

“The actual deaths due to Covid may be much higher than official figures suggest,” Gautam Menon, who teaches physics and biology at Sonepat’s Ashoka University, told Article 14. “The social stigma surrounding Covid and a lack of acceptance that someone could die from it has likely led to concealment of the true cause of death. This, along with improper reporting, has shown up in these large numbers of excess deaths. This will likely mean that our mortality estimates for Covid-19 will need to be adjusted upwards substantially.”

He warned that inaccurate reporting of figures could have “a serious negative effect” on India’s fight against such pandemics in future. “If such unusually low mortality rates are reported by state governments as their official figures, we run the risk that the public will not take messaging regarding the disease seriously enough, especially in the future,” he added.

Other states

Civil Registration System data for Madhya Pradesh accessed by showed that the state recorded over 1,60,000 deaths in May 2021, or nearly five times the number of reported deaths in the same month in 2018 and 2019. In all, Madhya Pradesh saw more than twice as many deaths between January 1 and May 31 this year compared to the 2018-’19 figure.

There were over 1,80,000 deaths in 2021 over the average of number of deaths in 2018 and 2019, and over 42 times the reported Covid death toll for the same period.

In Andhra Pradesh, excess deaths were 34 times the official Covid death toll in 2021. All cause deaths were nearly five times more than normal in May, coinciding with the second wave.

Limited data available for Tamil Nadu showed a more modest increase in mortality: between January 1 and June 13, Tamil Nadu registered 129,000 excess deaths over the average, roughly 7.5 times the official reported Covid-19 toll for the same time.

In Assam, excess deaths were 30 times the official Covid death toll in August to November 2020, coinciding with the first wave.

About 82,500 excess deaths occurred in Bihar between January and May at a time when the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic caused a surge in infections and deaths in India, according to data from the state’s Civil Registration System. This has cast doubts on the state’s official data on Covid-19 deaths.