India’s national COVID death totals remain undetermined. Using an independent nationally representative survey of 0.14 million (M) adults, we compared COVID mortality during the 2020 and 2021 viral waves to expected all-cause mortality. COVID constituted 29% (95%CI 28-31%) of deaths from June 2020-July 2021, corresponding to 3.2M (3.1-3.4) deaths, of which 2.7M (2.6-2.9) occurred in April-July 2021 (when COVID doubled all-cause mortality). A sub-survey of 57,000 adults showed similar temporal increases in mortality with COVID and non-COVID deaths peaking similarly. Two government data sources found that, when compared to pre-pandemic periods, all-cause mortality was 27% (23-32%) higher in 0.2M health facilities and 26% (21-31%) higher in civil registration deaths in ten states; both increases occurred mostly in 2021. The analyses find that India’s cumulative COVID deaths by September 2021 were 6-7 times higher than reported officially.
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