The government on Thursday trashed as "baseless" a New York Times report that said India's Covid deaths were severely undercounted and underreported.
"The NYT report is not backed by any evidence and is based on distorted estimates," said VK Paul, NITI Aayog member and the head of India's Covid task force.
The New York Times said in an article published on Tuesday that India's death count was more likely three times the official 3 lakh, basing it on data from three nationwide sero surveys or antibody tests.
The article offered various scenarios and estimated 42 lakh deaths in the worst case, as it said the official figures in India "grossly understate the true scale of the pandemic in the country".
Dr Paul said it was possible that the number of infections was many times higher than positive Covid tests but it could not be the same for deaths.
"There may be some late reporting of deaths but there's no intent of any state or the Centre. If I apply the same three times yardstick to New York, then there would be 50,000 deaths. But they say it's 16,000. So this is distorted," he said.
"Our number (fatality) is 0.05 per cent of those infected. They've said 0.3 per cent. Why? On what basis have you decided that it's 0.3 per cent of that large infection universe? There is no basis at all. Five people get together, make phone calls to each other and then throw this number. That's how this report has been done," alleged Dr Paul.
He asserted that a strong mortality tracking system was in place and "a so-called prestigious newspaper" should not have published such a piece.
The Health Ministry said there had been a steady decline in new Covid cases for the last 20 days, with 24 states witnessing a dip in active cases.
"We are on a downswing of the second wave of COVID-19 and believe that it will be sustained even when restrictions are significantly relaxed," the ministry said.
The country on Thursday recorded 2.11 lakh new Covid cases in a day and 3,847 deaths. The total cases is at 2.73 crore and deaths, 3.15 lakhs.