Days after floating corpses washed up on the banks of the Ganga at Bihar's Buxar, the Patna High Court has slammed glaring discrepancies in the number of dead reported by different official agencies. The judges asked the Principal Health Secretary to submit a fresh report within two days after verifying all details.
The High Court, which is monitoring the Covid situation in Bihar, tore into what it called contradictory affidavits filed by the state Chief Secretary, Tripurari Sharan, and the Patna Divisional Commissioner on Covid deaths in the state, especially in Buxar, where over 70 bodies surfaced on river banks last week.
"We are aghast at the manner in which the affidavits are being filed. The bench deserves better treatment from the government. We don't appreciate this," a bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sanjay Kumar said.
The Chief Secretary's affidavit claimed just eight deaths since March 1 in Buxar. But the Divisional Commissioner's official statement said 789 cremations took place at Chardham Ghat at Buxar between May 5 and May 14.
The High Court said the documents did not clarify how many deaths were from COVID-19. Asking for those details, it said the other causes of death according to age groups must be explained.
The judges noted that Buxar has a population of nearly 17 lakh. If in 10 days 789 were cremated only in one crematorium, what could the entire district, they questioned.
"The Chief Secretary does not say six deaths are only due to Covid. The commissioner also does not say that 789 deaths are non-Covid ones. The total population of Buxar is 17 lakh, but the figures are only for Nagar Parishad. There is no mention of the religion or age groups of the dead. Last rites may have been performed at burial grounds," the bench said.
The High Court also said the official Bihar government website was not updated on the number of deaths.