India is no stranger to political controversies. At least a half-dozen rage in its fractious public life at any time.

But perhaps the most unseemly dispute recently has been the current one over the country’s COVID-19 mortality figures.

The pandemic hit India hard, particularly during the second wave in April-June 2021, when people were dying from COVID-19 in hospital waiting rooms and parking lots, while others succumbed due to a lack of medical oxygen. Countless funeral pyres glowed in the darkness along the banks of the Ganges, even as some poor families, unable to afford a funeral, wrapped their loved ones in shrouds and sent them floating down the river.