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Floating bodies in river have reasons beyond tradition: IE finds

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Floating bodies in river have reasons beyond tradition: IE finds
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Bodies of suspected Covid-19 coronavirus victims are seen partially buried in the sand near a cremation ground on the banks of Ganges River in Rautapur Ganga Ghat, in Unnao. Credit: AFP Photo

New Delhi: The floating dead bodies in the River Ganga have signalled how devastating the COVID impact on India is, and how the UP and Central governments have harshly been criticised for its failings in arresting the situation.

But what caused dead bodies to be dumped in the river, seeing them deposited along the shores of the Ganga and its tributaries has yet to come out from obscurity. According to the Centre, nearly 2,000 bodies have been retrieved from the Ganga by various district administrations in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the last one week or so.

Although the cause of deaths hasn't been determined yet, the scores of bodies retrieved indicate how the pandemic has severely hit villages and how they are grappling to survive.

An Indian Express-conducted enquiry, collecting data from next of kin, officials, eyewitnesses and residents in Unnao and Ghazipur of UP, about the dumping of bodies, have found several other reasons, including economic distress and sudden rush to lay the dead to rest, apart from long-held traditions. The pandemic also kept several deaths out of official records.

Over the last three days, the district administration, police and residents at the Gahmar Ghat, 7 km from the Bihar border have been struggling to dispose of the bodies, either by cremating them or by burying them deep in the sand.

Most of the people that the Indian Express talked with said it was the high cost of cremation of dead bodies that caused the finding of dead bodies floating in the river banks.

The IE quoted one of the residents from Gahmar Ghat has said that the rate of a pyre shot up to Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 as against Rs 500, taking the total amount of funeral to around Rs 10,000.

Near the river bank on the ghat, The Indian Express found hundreds of burial spots lying exposed after the rains.

On Friday, the UP government said that the Home Department will deploy the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and the Jal Police of PAC for patrolling all the rivers in the state to ensure that bodies are not dumped in rivers.

Police Inspector Hari Narayan Shukla says his teams are patrolling a 25-km stretch, up to the Chausa border in Bihar, to ensure that no bodies are thrown in.

"People are afraid of Covid and don't want to touch the bodies. There is a shortage of wood, too. There are ghats like this, but villagers also perform the last rites anywhere along the banks. Just this morning, I saw one family trying to sneak off to one side to perform the last rites without burning the body. I brought them here," says Shukla.

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TAGS:Covid19 updates 
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