The civic body in Mumbai city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC, has replied to charges made by the opposition BJP over delay in reconciling data and recording 862 deaths as COVID-19 deaths.
In a statement on Thursday, the BMC said, "On 06.06.2020, when a private hospital reported 17 deaths to EPID Cell, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), on that day, the present Municipal Commissioner conducted a thorough investigation.
"It was observed that only 1 death had taken place on that day and the other 16 deaths which had not been announced earlier were now included in that day's report. In order to get more detailed and accurate information in this regard, all public and private hospitals were strictly instructed by the incumbent Municipal Commissioner on 08.06.2020 to submit this information about the past deaths to the Epidemic Cell of the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation within 48 hours without any delay.
"Epidemic Cell, MCGM is the single contact point for reporting deaths by all hospitals under the jurisdiction of MCGM."
The BJP and the Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis had alleged a cover-up. On the day the data reconciliation took place, Mr Fadnavis tweeted, "And the truth finally is out...! 862 #COVID19 deaths in Mumbai and 466 in other districts were declared today. Total 1328 additional deaths will now be recorded as #Covid_19 deaths."
The BMC responded by saying, "It is important to note that the Epidemic Cell, MCGM which is responsible for compiling all information on patients and deaths was unaware of these deaths until June 12, 2020. Therefore, there is no question of hiding this information at the level of MCGM.
"In fact, the Municipal Corporation collected the information of all the deaths by issuing instructions to all the hospital and following it up seriously. After this, it was reported to the government immediately on 15.6.2020 and brought in the public domain on 16.6.2020 by the Govt."
In another tweet, Mr Fadnavis said, "It is my sincere request to the State Government that please don't ignore this entire episode of criminal negligence in the name of reconciliation of numbers. These figures were suppressed for last 3months. We demand strict action against all those who are responsible for this."
The BMC responded, saying, "Even before some people started expressing doubts about the concealment of this information, the Municipal Corporation had already collected the information, verified it, corrected the errors in it and submitted it to the government. These were great proactive efforts by the Municipal Corporation to bring all these facts before the people in a transparent and spontaneous manner. The same shall continue in the future also.
"Reconciling information and reporting is an ongoing process. Therefore, it is humbly mentioned that such information need to be reconciled from time to time in such a serious pandemic."
The BMC is run by the Shiv Sena, which had a bitter fallout with the BJP last year and formed a government with the Nationalist Congress Party and the ideologically opposite Indian National Congress.
The BJP has been targeting the Sena and Mr Fadnavis has been attacking the ruling dispensation on its handling of the COVID-19 situation in a challenging city like Mumbai and surrounding areas. The Sena has appealed to the BJP to keep politics aside in the time of the pandemic.