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Authentic numbers are absent, Covid-19 crisis has exposed India’s data-ignorance

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13.05.2020

In these difficult times of infections and deaths due to the Covid-19 crisis, I have been hard put to gain accurate information on numbers for places such as Dharavi in Mumbai. Quite often, there are conflicting figures emanating from different sources for the same day’s data.

This is symptomatic of a larger chronic issue that is affecting India for quite some time. This data-ignorance is getting exposed during the coronavirus pandemic more than ever.

Indians have become alarmingly indifferent — and often inefficient — when it comes to dealing with data and its use. It is ironic that this is happening in the land where Chanakya — much before the time of Christ — pioneered the use of statistical analysis for better governance. One would thus have expected that India would be better able to model the global data on Covid-19.

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Take this interesting data-based insight that has emerged from the Texas Medical Centre in Houston on the correlation between low death rates and nations that have had a vigorous Bacille Calmette-Guérin BCG — vaccination programme.

Given that India has had mandatory BCG vaccinations since 1978, it seems a given that this study should have been undertaken further to check the situation in a closed environment — such as Dharavi — to see if the correlation gets any stronger.

Unfortunately, I have not seen any such study. In fact, I have not seen any data-based analysis done in a meaningful manner for any aspect of the pandemic in India. A great deal can be achieved by examining the data via sources that are freely available on the web. As per my understanding, Dharavi has had declining numbers of infections and declining rates of infections for the past few days. According to my calculations, the average rate of increase of infections for the past week has been 5.7 per cent and it has been hovering around 3 per cent for the last three days. This data is in stark contrast with what was happening a few days ago when Dharavi clocked a weekly average infection rate of 9.6 per cent.

In fact, the projections for........

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