India’s top science agency modified its findings on COVID-19 to fit with the government’s more optimistic predictions even as the country’s brutal second wave loomed, per a new investigation from The New York Times. Senior officials in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration forced scientists at the Indian Council of Medical Research to tailor their data to fit the government’s optimistic narrative. Modi, focused on revitalizing the economy and the spring elections of 2020, said in January that his country had “saved humanity from a big disaster.” Months later, the second wave hit.
Concerning data and mathematical models reflecting the true nature of the threat were suppressed or changed, according to the report. Optimistic studies were published, proclaiming that the worst was over and that previous infections and lockdowns had effectively contained the virus. Other studies, ones that questioned the government’s strategies or predicted a second wave, were reportedly withdrawn under agency leaders’ coercion. The I.C.M.R. recommended blood plasma to sickened patients, a treatment the agency already knew was useless in combating the virus. Two scientists who worried the information they were putting out would dangerously lower the public’s guard approached the agency’s top brass and were swiftly reprimanded. “Science is being used as a political weapon to forward the government narrative rather than help people,” one of the scientists told the Times.