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India team exposes the truth behind India’s low virus death rate

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The New Delhi-based team of health and science writer Aniruddha Ghosal, reporter Sheikh Saaliq, chief photographer Manish Swarup and video journalist Shonal Ganguly, joined by Gauhati-based photographer Anupam Nath, delivered an ambitious all-formats package led by a compelling character profile to unravel the mystery behind India’s relatively low COVID-18 fatalities number, which experts say is an undercount.

India has 5.4 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, but only 87,000 deaths. After numerous conversations with experts, health care officials and workers across the country, Ghosal and Saaliq offered a critical counternarrative, showing that India is not counting many deaths.

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Anindita Mitra, 61, and her sons Abhijit, left, and Satyajit, pose with portraits of her late husband, Narayan Mitra, at her home in Silchar, India, Sept. 13, 2020. Narayan Mitra, wasn’t listed among those killed by the coronavirus because the test results confirming COVID-19 arrived after his death. – AP Photo / Joy Roy

The story began with the personal narrative of Narayan Mitra, whose family said he wasn’t counted as a coronavirus victim by doctors who said the virus was an “incidental” factor since he had a pre-existing disease. The story also showed how Indian states were not complying with the Health Ministry guidelines to record all suspected virus deaths, including “presumptive deaths” – those who likely died of COVID-19 but weren’t tested for it.

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The body of a COVID-19 victim awaits cremation in New Delhi, India, Sept. 16, 2020. – AP Photo / Manish Swarup
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