15 May, 2020
According to an article by MRIDULA CHARI & NITIN SETHI on 15th May, 2020, The Centre’s ‘single source of truth’ in easing lockdowns is a database of Covid-19 cases ridden with unverified data, duplicate names and other flaws.
On 29 April, the ICMR database used by the Centre recorded 5,024 different active Covid-19 cases than the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) database used by the states, with the two databases showing the same figures in only five states and three union territories, with no more than 16 cases between them. The rest showed either fewer or more cases from state to state.
On complaints from states, India’s premier medical-research body has frequently revised protocols and processes of collecting these data, in one instance changing a data-collection form 10 times over 60 days. But the Centre, which makes all decisions related to lockdowns, has said only the ICMR data will prevail.
The ICMR database was unreliable even on 1 May, when the Union government extended the lockdown for the second time, up to 17 May, according to the presentation sent to the states.
“The ICMR database has duplicate names, wrong and vague phone numbers and address details,” a senior officer of an eastern state told Article 14 on 3 May. The officer requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue and requested that the state not be identified.
“The ICMR database has duplicate names, wrong and vague phone numbers and address details,” a senior officer of an eastern state told Article 14 on 3 May. The officer requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue and requested that the state not be identified
Another officer in-charge of Covid-19 data management for a western state said, “Sometimes the person had [been] tested in one district, but came from another and originally belonged to a third place. Verification of these discrepancies can only be done by state agencies. But, till recently ICMR did not have a process to allow state and district authorities to verify and fix it.” This officer also did not want to be quoted fearing retaliation from the central government.
Article 14 sent emails seeking comment to India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Health Secretary Preeti Sudan, ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava and ICMR chief of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Raman Gangakhedkar about the discrepancies in the two databases.
The secretary, who heads the ministry of health and family welfare (MOHFW) forwarded our email to others in the ministry and ICMR and copied us. Bhargava replied to the email thread saying, “The matter… is related to MOHFW and not to ICMR.” Bhargava did not reply to a separate email with questions connected to the ICMR.