‘Sushasan Babu’ Nitish Kumar was being hailed as a formidable chief minister who took the challenge of the COVID-19 second wave head-on and prevented the condition from spiralling out of control in Bihar. All was going perfectly fine for Nitish Kumar until it came to be revealed that Bihar saw close to 75,000 deaths in the first five months of 2021, which coincided with the deadly second COVID wave. This is almost 10 times the state’s official pandemic death figure. About 1.3 lakh deaths were reported in Bihar in January-May 2019.
NDTV reported that the figure for the same time period in 2021 was almost 2.2 lakh, according to data from the state’s Civil Registration System, showing a difference of about 82,500. More than half of this 62 per cent increase was reported in May this year. What this means is that Bihar has been underreporting its COVID-19 death toll ever since the second wave of the pandemic struck India.
On June 9, as many as 3,951 backlog deaths were added to Bihar’s coronavirus fatalities after the Patna High Court flagged irregularities in May. The state’s toll was then increased to 9,429. The Nitish Kumar-led government, meanwhile, got quite a dressing down by the Patna High Court recently too, which declared that Bihar was the most reluctant state to put a number of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic out in the public domain.
A Special Bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice S Kumar directed the State government to disclose accurate and timely statistics of such deaths through digital means. The High Court in its order said, “The Right to Information is a Fundamental Right as recognized by the Hon’ble Apex Court, and the information in question is covered under such right. Therefore, the Government of Bihar is under an obligation to the citizens of India, more so the residents of the State, to provide information on the Digital Portal the number of deaths, be it for whatever reason, that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The High Court even directed the Bihar government, led by Nitish Kumar to create a transparent and easily accessible database, in consonance with the “Digital India” program and provide the general public with regular and timely updates. The state was also told that it is obligated to provide accurate information, fight the ‘infodemic’ on the one hand, and heal the systemic neglect on the other, Bar and Bench reported.
Earlier, as reported by TFI, in a span of two months, at least two different scams had come to light in the state of Bihar. First, an ambulance scam was unearthed in the Saran district of Bihar. Then, another such scam surfaced in the neighbouring Siwan district, home of state health minister Mangal Pandey. We had reported back then how 21 ambulances were purchased under Chief Minister’s Area Development Fund. Interestingly though, seven ambulances, whose market price is Rs 7 lakh each, were purchased for Rs 21.84 lakh each.
Quite clearly, Nitish Kumar is making a mess out of Bihar and also trying to cover his tracks while at it.