should be recorded as Covid-19-related if the disease is assumed to have caused or contributed to it, even if the person had a pre-existing medical condition, such as cancer.

In many places in India, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Rupal Thakkar tested positive for Covid-19 in mid-April. On April 16, she was admitted to Shalby Limited, a private hospital in her home city of Ahmedabad, but her oxygen levels suddenly dropped. The next day Ms. Thakkar, 48, died.

The hospital listed her cause of death as “sudden cardiac death,” which left the Thakkar family outraged.

“It was a lifetime shock,” said her younger brother, Dipan Thakkar. “Why would a private hospital connive with the government in hiding the real death numbers? It was an organized crime. It was an illegal act.”

Officials at Shalby didn’t respond to requests for comment.

very public scandal in 2019 when Mr. Modi’s government tried to suppress data showing a rise in the unemployment rate.

When it comes to Covid data, she said, “there is tremendous pressure from the central government on the state governments for projecting progress.”

Several officials from the governing party did not respond to messages seeking comment.

But manipulating death numbers seems to be happening in other places, too. One example is the state of Chhattisgarh, in central India, which is run by the leading opposition party, Congress.

Officials in Chhattisgarh’s Durg district, home to a large steel plant, reported more than 150 Covid-19 deaths from April 15 to April 21, according to messages sent to local media that were seen by The Times. The state reported less than half that number for Durg.

Chhattisgarh’s health minister, T.S. Singh Deo, denied any intentional underreporting. “We have tried to be as transparent as humanly possible,” he said. “We stand to be corrected at any point in time.”

Cremations are an important part of Hindu burial rituals, seen as a way to free the soul from the body. Those working at the burning grounds said they were utterly exhausted and could never remember so many people dying in such a short span of time.

In Surat, an industrial city in Gujarat, the grills used to burn bodies have been operating so relentlessly that the iron on some has actually melted. On April 14, Covid-19 crematories in Surat and another district, Gandhi Nagar, told The Times that they cremated 124 people, on a day when the authorities said 73 had died of Covid-19 in the entire state.

In Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh State, bodies are now being burned in some of the city’s parks; the crematories are that backed up.

In Ahmedabad, at the Vadaj crematory, huge smokestacks pump out black smoke. Mr. Suresh, a clerk, sits in a tiny office, the door closed firmly shut.

When reached by telephone, he said he put “beemari,” or sickness in Hindi, on all the death certificates, and he referred questions to a sanitation official who then referred questions to another official who declined to answer calls.

Mr. Suresh said that his crematory handled 15 to 20 bodies of Covid-19 patients every day. As he spoke on Friday, three bodies burned on separate pyres, next to a large and growing stack of freshly chopped wood.

View Source