Episode 118: India’s Data Deficit

Rukmini S
2 min readJul 14, 2021

Hello and welcome to The Moving Curve. I’m Rukmini, a data journalist based in Chennai. Two nights a week on this mini-cast, I consider one question around the novel coronavirus epidemic in India. Tonight I’m considering this one — how bad was India’s data deficit going into the pandemic, and how do we fix it?

It’s Day 523 of the novel coronavirus epidemic in India, and we are reporting 30, 944,949 confirmed cases and 411,439 reported deaths. First, let me begin with an apology for falling behind on the podcast. One of the reasons for this is because of the reporting that I have been doing around covid mortality in India. This is something I intend to spend some time talking about on the podcast but before I get to that issue, I’m going to take two episodes to talk about India’s data deficit, as well as the efforts to fix it. This is absolutely vital because there is little that you can answer with confidence about the pandemic without the right data. We’ve seen this in previous episodes where I talked about the terrible data on vaccine effectiveness that the Indian government was peddling, and then we looked at the actual scientific data on vaccine effectiveness that the UK was producing. A quick reminder that vaccines are extremely effective and I would urge you right away to get vaccinated if you aren’t already.

On this episode, I’m excited to speak to the economists Paul Novosad and Sam Asher, co-founders of the Development Data Lab. I did this interview several weeks ago, and listening back now, it’s ironic that we talked about excess mortality, because subsequently, I and other journalists did access the mortality data that Sam mentions later, and coincidentally, all of that data is now hosted on the Development Data Lab. We’ll be talking a lot more about excess mortality in future episodes.

Paul and Sam’s paper on the differences in Infection Fatality Rates between population sub-groups in India is here.

Thanks to Paul and Sam for speaking to me, and to Aditi Bhowmick, DDL’s India Director.

Thank you for listening. This episode was edited by Anand Krishnamoorthi. On the next episode, a new question.