NYT report on ICMR data: Cong demands probe

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on September 16, 2021

Some scientists ‘tailored’ Covid data to suit the Centre’s agenda, says report

The Congress has demanded a judicial probe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Union Health Minister Harsha Vardhan and senior officials of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), based on a recent report that appeared in New York Times that said a section of scientists “tailored the Covid data” to suit the political narrative of the Centre.

Suppressed views

The report had also said the Centre and ICMR suppressed the views and findings of scientists who warned against the second wave. The ICMR has denied all allegations and said the report is an attempt to seek the attention of the public.

AICC General Secretary, Ajay Maken, told reporters here on Thursday that a judicial enquiry, by a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court, should be conducted to get the facts right.

He said the official figure of more than 4 lakh deaths due to Covid is also being challenged by a section of scientists and about 68 lakh people may have died due to Covid 19 in the country in the last one year. “It is not a small issue,” he said.

He demanded a criminal investigation against the PM, the then Health Minister and the senior officials of the ICMR. “It is important as the scientists who worked with the ICMR themselves have come out openly and said because of political interference the data was fudged to create a false narrative that everything is normal,” he said, citing the report that quoted a former researcher with the ICMR, Anup Agarwal, who, according to the report, left India after being reprimanded by the ICMR for raising concerns about a second wave. Maken said the PM and the then Health Minister claimed that everything is normal based on the fudged data. “Because of this, the guards were lowered, State governments were unprepared, the general public were unprepared and, as a result, the second wave of Covid 19 came, which was devastating. Around 68 lakh people would have died in this second wave,” Maken claimed.

‘Bid to divert attention’

The Union Health Ministry and the ICMR refuted all the allegations. Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the report is an attempt to divert attention. “We greatly value journalistic and editorial freedom. We must realise that all of us in the Union Ministry, Health Ministry, ICMR, Niti Aayog, associated Ministries and the Ministries in the States, have fully emerged in fighting the pandemic.

“And all our energies and time is devoted to that. We cannot afford to be diverted by things that can be addressed at a later date, which cannot be a priority from the public health point of view,” he said.

The Director General of ICMR, Balram Bharaghava, said the article is a provocative and attention-seeking. “This is published at a time when India is doing good, our vaccination is excellent and it is diverting attention. All the issues raised are dead ones which do not merit the attention,” he said.

VK Paul, Niti Aayog, Member-Health, condemned the article, and said it is an example of distorted reporting out of context. “This is not desirable, and this should not happen,” he told reporters here on Thursday.

Published on September 16, 2021

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