Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, vice-president of the ruling-BJD government in Odisha, kicked off a storm in Odisha politics on Thursday after he raised some serious questions over the number of COVID-19 related deaths in the State.
Launching a scathing attack on the government, Patnaik, in an editorial piece, said that the data regarding the Covid mortality in the State has been fudged and concealed.
Patnaik said that due to administrative failure and negligence, a controversy has erupted over the COVID-19 toll in the State which is further affecting the image of the Odisha government.
The desperate race to be on the top and the attempt to cling onto past glory seem to have resulted in such factual death data manipulation, he said.
Had the actual number of deaths been revealed, there would not have been much loss of face. The ill-attempt of hiding the data is ruining the sanctity of the administrative machinery, he said.
"In the present scenario, what the left hand is doing is not known to the right hand of the administration. Whether Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is aware of it or not, we do not know for sure," said the BJD vice-president in his editorial.
The Odisha CM should release a white paper on the fatalities caused by the virus at the earliest, he demanded. "People of the State will love him more, if he displays his courage by releasing the white paper," he added.
The State BJP general secretary, Prithviraj Harichandan today thanked the BJD leader for raising the issue. During the COVID peak time, around 250 bodies were being cremated every day but the State government was sticking to a daily mortality count of 30 to 40, he said.
"By concealing the death numbers, the Odisha government is depriving the families of the victims of the Central assistance, and also from the assistance the State had announced for them," said Harichandan.
Responding to the allegations, government chief whip Pramila Mallick said that the State government has not concealed any Covid-related deaths and dared those pointing fingers at the government to reveal where such data has been put under the wraps.