Agency: Eight months before a deadly Covid wave struck India, government-appointed scientists downplayed the risks, writing in a study that early lockdowns and previous infections had tamed the spread.
But the country’s top science agency tailored its findings to fit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political goals, according to current and former government researchers and documents reviewed by The New York Times.
Senior officials at the Indian Council of Medical Research suppressed data showing the risks, pressured scientists to withdraw another study that called the government’s efforts into question and distanced the agency from a third study that foresaw a second wave, the researchers said.
Agency scientists described a culture of silence. Midlevel researchers worried that they would be passed over for opportunities if they questioned superiors. Anup Agarwal, a physician working for the agency at the time, said he and another scientist were punished for questioning the conclusions.
Response: The science agency declined to answer detailed questions. India’s health ministry did not respond to requests for comment.
Details: A study published in the journal Nature in January 2021 predicted a second wave if restrictions were “lifted without any other mitigations in place.” One of its authors worked for the agency, and leadership pressured him to remove his affiliation from the paper. The second wave struck in April.