India registered higher deaths, fewer births in 1st pandemic year
India saw a 6% rise in deaths in 2020—the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic—compared to 2019, showed the Civil Registration System (CRS) data released by the Centre on Tuesday. The number of deaths increased from 76.4 lakh in 2019 to 81.2 lakh in 2020, The Print reported. Meanwhile, the number of births registered in India in 2020 dropped 2.4% from the year before.
Why does this story matter?
- The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry (MoHFW) released the 2020 CRS data on Tuesday, amid a debate between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centre over the actual number of India's COVID-10 deaths.
- New Delhi has disputed the WHO's approach to calculating the fatalities that estimated the country's COVID-19 death count to be much higher than the national official toll of 5,23,889.
Health Ministry earlier requested WHO to wait for CRS data
The Health Ministry had earlier urged the WHO to abandon its modeling approach for calculating deaths in favor of CRS data. It claimed the CRS data would be a more reliable source of the deaths recorded in India. Notably, the WHO's estimates include India's COVID-19 fatalities recorded in 2020 and 2021, whereas the scope of the Centre's CRS data is restricted to only 2020.
Several factors behind decline in 2020 birth rates
The COVID-19 pandemic, the subsequent nationwide lockdown in March, and restrictions on movement and activities until 2020-end made it harder for people to register births. These factors could have led to fewer birth registrations in 2020, noted Hindustan Times. Notably, data released through India's CRS represents the "continuous, permanent, compulsory, and universal" recording of important events like deaths, births, and stillbirths.
60% males among total deaths, 11 states account for 90%
Of the total deaths registered in 2020, males and females reportedly accounted for 60.2% and 39.8%, respectively. According to the CRS data, 11 states and union territories (UTs) reportedly contributed to more than 90% of the pandemic deaths that occurred in 2020. These included Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, Mizoram, West Bengal, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat.
More infant deaths in urban areas than rural areas
The CRS report also noted that, in 2020, urban areas reported a higher percentage of infant deaths than rural areas, which it says could be due to "non-registration of infant deaths in rural areas." "It may be observed...the share of rural areas is only 23.4% while that of urban areas is 76.6% of total registered infant deaths during the year," added the report.
Drop in births, rise in deaths not unprecedented in India
Apart from India, many other countries reported a fall in births during the pandemic.Notably, neither a decline in births nor a rise in death registrations is unprecedented. The CRS report noted the number of deaths increased by 1.8% while the births decreased by 0.43% in 2017, too. The number of deaths recorded increased by 7.5% and 9.9%, respectively, in 2018 and 2019, it added.