Bodies are being burned in cities around India "day and night" as workers break ranks to question why the numbers don't stack up.
Crematoriums are being overworked to such a degree that metal parts are melting at one facility and the chimney of one electric furnace at another cracked and collapsed from 20-hour use for 14 straight days.
Newspapers in India are splashed with horrifying images of row upon row of burning pyres while authorities try in vain to bring a record number of infections back to a manageable level.
But even as Covid numbers skyrocket, workers at crematoriums say the government's official figures do not appear to add up.
In Lucknow, at a Covid-only crematorium, double the number of bodies arrived on six different days in April compared to government data, CNN reports.
"We are working day and night," a worker said. "The incinerators are running full time but still many people have to wait with the bodies for the last rites."
Harvard epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding last week called the situation "extremely worrisome".
"Deaths being suppressed," he wrote. "At the two crematoriums in Bhopal, 187 bodies were cremated following Covid protocols in four days – all while official death toll remained at just five."
India broke its single day record with 184,000 infections last Wednesday. Late on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on Indians to step up their efforts to battle the coronavirus so that fresh lockdowns are not necessary.
It comes as the nation reels from an explosion of cases and the capital runs dangerously short of oxygen supplies.
In his first address since the start of the record-breaking new wave of infections, Modi acknowledged that India's 1.3 billion people were "once again fighting a big fight".
"The situation was under control till a few weeks back, and then this second corona wave came like a storm," he said in a televised speech.
"It is a big challenge but we have to – together, with our courage and determination – overcome it... We have to avoid lockdowns and we need to focus on mini containment zones instead."
India has been struggling to rein in its raging outbreak, with hospitals running out of beds and regional governments forced to reimpose economically painful restrictions.
The South Asian nation has recorded more than three million new infections and 18,000 deaths this month, bringing its caseload to the world's second-highest, after the United States.
Its capital, and worst-hit city, New Delhi entered a week-long lockdown on Monday, with parks, cinemas and malls closed.
Maharashtra state, the epicentre of the recent surge and home to financial capital Mumbai, on Tuesday further tightened restrictions on grocery shops and home deliveries.
All non-essential shops and malls in the western state are currently shut until May 1.
Uttar Pradesh, home to some 240 million people, on Tuesday announced a weekend lockdown from Friday evening, whilst Telangana state in the south became the latest to impose a night curfew.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who on Tuesday went into self-isolation after his wife tested positive, called on the national government to supply the capital with oxygen amid a severe shortage.
"Some hospitals are left with just a few hours of oxygen," he tweeted late on Tuesday.
Delhi's lockdown prompted tens of thousands of migrant workers to flee the mega-city, in scenes reminiscent of the national shutdown a year ago that inflicted economic and human misery.
Hundreds of people tested positive at the site of the world's biggest religious festival last week.
The virus was detected in more than 1000 people in just 48 hours in the city of Haridwar, which lies along the holy river where the Kumbh Mela festival is being observed, officials said.