NEW DELHI — The forecast was mathematically based, government-approved and deeply, tragically wrong.

In September 2020, eight months before a deadly Covid-19 second wave struck India, government-appointed scientists downplayed the possibility of a new outbreak. Previous infections and early lockdown efforts had tamed the spread, the scientists wrote in a study that was widely covered by the Indian news media after it was released last year.

The results dovetailed neatly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two main goals: restart India’s stricken economy and kick off campaigning for his party in state elections that coming spring. But Anup Agarwal, a physician then working for India’s top science agency, which reviewed and published the study, worried that its conclusions would lull the country into a false sense of security.

Dr. Agarwal took his concerns to the agency’s top official in October. The response: He and another…

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