Hurricane Sandy
While an RTI revealed a discrepancy in the TB and Malaria records in Mumbai, BMC officials blamed it on clerical errors by the paramedics (representational image).Reuters

A discrepancy in the number of deaths due to Tuberculosis (TB) reported by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been found by Praja, an NGO, with the help of information obtained via the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

This discrepancy was found by comparing BMC Health Department's figures with the "cause of death" reason shown in the death certificates, issued by the BMC themselves. BMC's health department showed that there has been a total of 1,393 deaths due to TB, in the year 2013-14.

However, Praja, in their new findings, discovered that a total of 7,127 people have died due to TB in that span of time. The number of TB deaths is around five times higher than the number of TB deaths on the records of the BMC's health department.

If the cumulative records of the past four years are put together, the report finds that the BMC official records show 5,213 TB deaths, while the death certificate records show that the actual figure stands around six times higher at 30,722.

Discrepancy in TB Mortality in Mumbai.
Discrepancy in TB Mortality in Mumbai.Praja Foundation

"That the BMC's public health department chooses to report lesser numbers, goes to say a lot about how the mandatory notification system of BMC is not functioning in an up to date manner," said Nitai Mehta, Trustee and Founder of Praja.

"Neither are they choosing to accept or report deaths according to cause of death data, which means they are watering down the intensity of a crucial public health issue by underreporting data," he alleged.

The report also found discrepancies in the mortality, reported by the BMC, in a few other diseases as well.

The BMC reported a total of 30 deaths due to Malaria in 2013-14. However, the NGO found (using the same death certificate method) that these figures stand around six times higher at 199. The BMC officials, on their part, blamed the ground level medical workers for this discrepancy.

Descripancy in Malaria Mortality rate in Mumbai.Praja Foundation

"The death figures in our records are based on Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP)," said Dr Minnie Khetarpal, Control Officer for TB, BMC. "On several occasions, even para-medics issue death certificates without filling the form properly. This leads to inaccurate data. I feel the difference in Praja and BMC figures is due to that."

Praja, in their study, also pointed out that to improve this, the government needs to take into account the data from both private and charitable health institutions, and upload all their data on the internet, for the view of the public, in order to aid survey-based research.