[Editorial] Civil Registration System Report of 2020 and its significance

Context: India has released recently the data on births and deaths registered in 2020 in the Civil Registration System (CRS) report of 2020 at least a month before the scheduled.

Quick revision mind map

Why does the CRS data matter?

  • The Civil Registration System (CRS) collates data on all births and deaths registered with local authorities across India.
  • It is released by the Registrar-General of India.
  • It releases its report around 18 months after a year ends.
  • Such data can be of significance during a pandemic as possible covid-19 deaths may not have been categorized as such in official records.
  • The CRS can help us reach an estimate by using the “excess deaths” approach, which is the difference between the total number of deaths registered in a pandemic year and the number of deaths that normally take place in a year.

What does the 2020 data show?

Covid’s death toll:

  • The CRS report for 2020 has recorded deaths of 8.12 million Indians, 6.2% more than in 2019.
  • Normally, an unusual increase in deaths would be linked to the pandemic.
  • However, in India, not all deaths are registered. Thus, a rise could simply be because of more families getting deaths registered.
  • The CRS for 2021, which saw more Covid deaths, may not be out until next year.

How should excess death numbers be read?

  • Governments will naturally fail to capture the true toll of a pandemic like covid-19.
  • Not all patients are tested and defining a “covid death” is complicated.
  • This leaves the “excess deaths” approach the best-placed method to estimate the toll.
  • However, it should not be seen as the actual number of covid-19 deaths.
  • It may also include people who lost their lives because of the indirect impact of the pandemic, such as patients with other diseases who could not get timely health care because of lockdowns.
  • This applies to WHO estimates too.

Sex ratio:

  • The sex ratio at birth is the number of females per thousand males.
  • According to the annual report on Vital Statistics based on the 2020 Civil Registration System report, Ladakh recorded the highest sex ratio at birth in the country in 2020, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tripura and Kerala.
  • The lowest sex ratio was reported by Manipur, followed by Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

Why was the data released ahead of schedule?

  • India and the WHO are locked in a tussle over the latter’s excess death estimates that would give a sense of pandemic-linked fatalities globally in 2020-21.
  • India has reportedly stalled WHO’s efforts to release the data, claiming flawed methodology.
  • A possible reason that India released CRS data early is that the WHO is set to release its estimates soon.

Why is India contesting the WHO approach?

  • One key objection by India is that WHO has classified it as a Tier 2 country and hence used a different modelling process to estimate excess deaths from that used for Tier 1 countries.
  • WHO says all countries that made available their full all-cause mortality data for the pandemic period were classified as Tier 1. India is in Tier 2 because it didn’t share official data with WHO.
  • Hence, alternative data and modelling methods had to be adopted, adjusting for factors such as income levels, covid-19 reporting rates, and test positivity rates.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. Considering the recently released Civil Registration System (CRS) report, 2020, the “excess deaths” approach is the best-placed method to estimate the toll. However, it should not be seen as the actual number of covid-19 deaths. Comment. (250 Words, 15 Marks).
Referred Sources

TH1

TH2

Mint

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