The lapses in India’s Covid-19 data are a result of decades of callousness towards statistics

Prathamesh Mulye at Quartz: “India is paying a huge price for decades of callous attitude towards data and statistics. For several weeks now, experts have been calling out the Indian government and state heads for suppressing Covid-19 infection and death figures. None of the political leaders have addressed these concerns even as official data reflects a small fraction of what’s playing out at hospitals and cremation grounds.

A major reason why administrations are getting away without an answer is that data lapses are nothing new to India.

Successive regimes in the country have tinkered and twisted figures as per their convenience without much consequences. For years, the country has been criticised for insufficient and poor quality data relating to a range of topics, including GDP, farmer suicide, and even unemployment…

Before the pandemic started, the most prominent data controversy in India was around the GDP numbers, which the Modi government continuously changed and chopped to cover up the slowdown in economic growth. In 2019, the Modi government also chose not to publish an unemployment data report that showed that joblessness in the country was at a nine-year high in 2017-18. And last year, in the middle of the pandemic, the government said it had no data on the number of frontline workers who had lost their lives to Covid-19 or a list of police personnel fatalities due to the disease.

Experts say that India’s statistical machinery has been deliberately weakened over the past few years to protect various governments’ false claims and image.

“The weakened statistical machinery manifests itself in different ways such as delays and questions about data quality. Also, when the results of a survey don’t suit the government in power, it tries to suppress data. This happened, for instance, with nutrition data in previous governments too,” said Reetika Khera, associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi.

“Think of the economy as a patient: data captures its pulse rate. If you don’t listen to the pulse, you won’t be able to diagnose correctly, let alone cure it,” she added….(More)”