Patna: In a case of data fraud, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and actor Priyanka Chopra were shown to be vaccinated at a community health centre in Bihar’s Naxal-hit district Arwal on 27 October.
The government has now sacked the data entry operator and initiated legal action, attributing the goof-up in the official data to mischief by some elements. The issue came to light as the list of people vaccinated at the Karbi health centre was uploaded on a government portal.
“The health department has taken immediate action after the matter came to light. The data entry operator has been removed from the job and legal action has been taken. I have talked to the Arwal DM and have asked him to examine the data of other government hospitals. This is a technical matter and people recruited should do their jobs seriously,” Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey told ThePrint.
Hinting that the “mistake” took place at the data entry level, Arwal District Magistrate (DM) J. Priyadharshini said the matter is under investigation. The official conceded it’s a “serious matter”.
“Ever since the matter came to my notice we have been investigating the matter and a case will be lodged against the guilty,” the DM told ThePrint.
Another Arwal official pointed out that the district administration had investigated the addresses entered in the data. “There was no one called Narendra Modi or Amit Shah in the two villages (near the centre). There were a couple of Priyankas in another village but no one having Chopra affixed to their names,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
However, the health minister dismissed questions of credibility of government data on Covid tests and vaccination.
According to the state government, over 7 crore persons have been vaccinated in Bihar so far.
Questions on Covid data, officials say data entry continuous process
This incident isn’t the only one that has put question marks on Bihar Covid-19 data.
Last week, Bihar’s Covid death toll jumped nearly 25 per cent from 9,655 to 12,059 in a single day. The government claimed this revision happened due to issues with death certificates, among others.
“Covid-19 has been an emergency situation in which data have been continuously coming in. We noticed some discrepancies in it. All the information was properly analysed and figures were revised. There were also some issues with the death certificates and the causes of death mentioned in them,” Bihar Health Department Director-in Chief Navin Chandra Prasad was quoted as saying.
The Patna High Court is monitoring the Bihar government data on Covid-19. In May, the HC had expressed concerns over the official data after several voluntary organisations moved the court.
In June, the state government had revised the Covid death toll by over 3,900.
The opposition has repeatedly questioned figures given by the government on Covid. The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) (CPI (ML)) conducted a village-to-village survey in October in 14 of the 38 districts of Bihar and came out with a figure of 2 lakh Covid deaths in the state — over 20 times higher than the official data.
“The deaths are being suppressed. It is quite possible that the number of vaccinations are being exaggerated,” CPI-ML MLA Mehbood Alam told ThePrint.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Tejashwi Yadav has repeatedly alleged data fudging by the Nitish Kumar government.
However, a former Bihar civil servant said no government data on any subject is entirely accurate.
“Government data should be taken with a pinch of salt. The proportion of salt may differ 10 per cent, 20 per cent and even more than 30 per cent. But the fact remains that there is no government data on any subject which is 100 per cent accurate,” said former Bihar chief secretary V.S. Dubey.
“Data collection is a gigantic exercise involving so many people so the errors and mistakes cannot be overruled. At the same time there is suppressed data and exaggerated data given by the government as per its convenience,” Dubey added.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)