WHILE THE trend of increasing registrations of deaths in India continued in 2020 as well, Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, saw a big drop, despite the fact that the total number of deaths would probably have risen due to thepandemic.
According to data from the Civil Registration System (CRS), Uttar Pradesh registered 8.73 lakh deaths in 2020, down from 9.44 lakh deaths registered in 2019.
Kerala, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Delhi also saw a drop in death registrations in 2020 as compared to the previous year. In fact, in percentage terms, Telangana registered a 11 per cent decline as compared to a 7.5 per cent fall in UP.
However, what makes the UP decline more significant is that the state already has a low level of death registrations. In 2019, India numbers up, but UP saw fall in death registrations in 2020
only about 63 per cent of all deaths were registered in the state. The death registrations in the state progressed slowly from about 47 per cent in 2011 to 63 per cent in 2019, while the national average jumped from 67 per cent to 92 per cent in the same period.
Several other states, including Kerala, Telangana and Delhi, register over 90 per cent of all deaths.
The CRS data show the births and deaths which were registered, not the actual number of births and deaths. India’s total death registrations increased from 76.41 lakh in 2019 to 81.16 lakh in 2020.
The actual number of births and deaths in India is estimated through a separate survey-based process known as Sample Registration System, or SRS. In 2019, for example, 83.01 lakh people were estimated to have died in India, of which 76.41 lakh deaths, or 92 per cent, got registered in the CRS. The SRS data for 2020 is still not available.
In states with high registration levels, the actual number of death registrations in any given year rises or falls alongside the actual number of deaths. So, if the number of deaths is higher as compared to the previous year, the death registrations would also rise, because there is little gap between deaths and registrations. Similarly, if there is a fall in the number of deaths, the death registrations would also show a dip.
But in states where the registration levels are low, there is ample scope for the number of registrations to increase even if there are fewer deaths as compared to the previous year.
An estimated 14.9 lakh people died in Uttar Pradesh in 2019, of which 9.44 lakh deaths were registered. The estimated number of deaths for 2020 is not yet available, but it is expected that it would be higher than the previous year because of Covid-19. The state had recorded 8,364 Covid-related deaths that year, according to official figures.
The numbers for Delhi and Telangana are also surprising. Delhi, which has a 100 per cent death registration rate, recorded 10,536 Covid-related deaths in 2020. Yet, the total number of registered deaths that year was 2,495 less than the previous year. This can happen only if non-Covid deaths saw a drop of over 13,000 compared to the previous year. Delhi records about 1.4 lakh deaths every year.
Because of the lockdown and restrictions on all kinds of activities, it is expected that certain kinds of deaths, like those caused by road accidents or industrial mishaps, would have gone down in 2020. But these numbers have not yet been quantified.
In Telangana, death registrations fell by 25,000 in 2020 as compared to 2019, while Kerala saw a decline of 19,584. According to official data, Telangana recorded 1,544 Covid deaths in 2020, while Kerala recorded 3,120.