Saturday 31 October 2020

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Society | Covid19

Suppressing ‘true’ figures of Covid isn’t in public interest: Gujarat HC; Is Goa Govt listening?

 

The Gujarat high court has told the Government of Gujarat that it cannot suppress ‘true and correct’ figures of Covid positive cases and Covid deaths, on daily basis, from the people.

“It is necessary”, stated the division bench headed by the Chief Justice, “so that people may be able to understand and comprehend the seriousness of the situation.”

The high court had taken suo motu cognisance of the worsening situation of the Covid19 pandemic in Gujarat and precautionary measures to be taken to prevent its further spread. 

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala had passed interim orders in this regard on 24th July and then on 17th August.

It pertained to issues like fining for not wearing masks, managing the influx of workers, vigil at borders and airports, crowded malls, creating awareness committee, building medical infrastructure, and appreciating the Covid warriors like police, health workers etc.

The order had also taken note of not keeping people updated with the Covid situation. In this regard, the court had initially ordered: 

“[12] We direct that district-wise daily tabular data of the total tests performed, total samples tested positive, total persons discharged, total patients home quarantined, total deaths and total deaths where deceased tested COVID-19 positive must be published in all newspapers so as to make people aware of the spread of the virus and ensure that there is no complacency.”

‘DON’T SUPPRESS THE FIGURES’

When the matter came up for hearing this month, the high court once again passed an oral order while posting the next hearing on 9th October. 

The oral order passed on 4th September has taken note of various issues, which have not been tackled by the authorities in an appropriate manner. 

In the last para of the order, which is now available in print, the Gujarat high court states:

“15. In the last, we take notice of something pointed out to us by Mr. Ansin Desai, the learned senior counsel in the course of the hearing today. Mr. Desai alleged that the State Government, over a period of time, has been suppressing the true figures of the Covid deaths and Covid positive cases. Mr. Desai would submit that such suppression is not in public interest. According to him, the State Government must disclose the true figures of the Covid deaths and Covid positive cases every day so that the people at large may be able to comprehend the gravity of the situation. 

We do not propose to go into this question as, even otherwise, it is a highly disputed question of fact. We could have seriously called upon the State Government on this issue, but we take it that the figures which are disclosed or declared at the end of the day are true and correct figures. We may only observe without alleging that if there is any element of truth in what has been pointed out by Mr. Desai, then surely it is not in public interest. 

It is necessary to disclose the true and correct figures of the Covid deaths and Covid positive cases so that people may be able to understand and comprehend the seriousness of the situation. People will not take things for granted. This will definitely have a psychological impact on the society at large. This aspect should be borne in mind by the State Government as a suggestion from this Court.” 

(Emphasis in bold by goanews.com)

Click here to read the Gujarat HC order

The high court has taken note of the allegation that “the State Government, over a period of time, has been suppressing the true figures of the Covid deaths and Covid positive cases.”

Even in Goa, a similar thing is happening. goanews.com has repeatedly pointed out with facts and figures how the Directorate of Health Services, in its daily media bulletin, has been hiding the true figures of Covid19, especially the fresh cases and cured cases, at each health center. 

Click here to read goanews.com reports

The Gujarat high court has also explained why disclosing true and correct figures are important. It’s necessary “so that people may be able to understand and comprehend the seriousness of the situation. People will not take things for granted. This will definitely have a psychological impact on the society at large.”

But, sadly, the Goa government has not paid heed to this. 

GUJARAT V/S GOA

In terms of population, Gujarat (6.23 Crore) is 42 times bigger than Goa (15 lakh). 

Gujarat has 33 districts while we have 33 health centres. Not less than 23 of its districts are much bigger than one Goa state with two small districts. 

Gujarat government thus provides Covid figures up to district level while Goa provides figures at the level of its 33 health centres. 

Click here for Goa Govt’s Covid Bulletin

In its initial interim order, the court had emphatically directed the state government “that district-wise daily tabular data of the total tests performed, total samples tested positive, total persons discharged, total patients home quarantined, total deaths and total deaths where deceased tested COVID-19 positive must be published.”

It means the court not only directed the government to publish the data at the district level but also of the areas where Covid deaths are reported.

This was in addition to the government publishing, at state level, the data in these categories.

The Gujarat government therefore now provides figures of active cases as well as cured cases, on daily basis, at 33 district levels. 

Click here for Gujarat Covid19 Website

But in Goa, our government neither provides active nor cured cases at the level of health centres, in spite of having it in hand.

Instead, it clubs both the figures together with additions and subtractions and provides a cumulative figure of active cases at each health centre. 

As the Gujarat high court has observed, people connected to these health centres “may (not) be able to understand and comprehend the seriousness of the situation. People will not take things for granted. This will definitely have a psychological impact on the society at large.”

The order of the Gujarat high court is legally not applicable to Goa. The only question thus remains if the Goa government would realise the public interest pointed out by the Judiciary and stop hiding the true and correct figures. 


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