Dead bodies washed up on the banks of Ganga were sighted for a second straight day on Tuesday -- this time in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh, reports NDTV. The spot is around 55 km upriver from Bihar's Buxar, where more than a hundred bodies were found on Monday, evoking shock and anger.
The Bihar authorities had argued that the corpses had flowed down from Uttar Pradesh, as their state has no tradition of consigning bodies to water. Earlier, media had reported that at least 40 bodies had floated ashore on the banks of the Ganges River at Mahadeo ghat in Chausa in Bihar.
Local authorities have expressed fear that the decomposing bodies found near the border between Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in Buxar district might be of Covid-19 victims, raising concerns of improper burials or cremations.
In absence of any Covid protocols at rural crematoriums, locals are fearful of further spread of the infection and families have been forced to consign the bodies in the river, it has been suspected.
Meanwhile, 71 of the dead bodies were retrieved and disposed of by the district administration after post-mortem on Tuesday, reports The Hindu. Tissue and other samples have also been preserved, says the report.
Reports released by certain media tallied the number of corpses at more than 100, while authorities' claims limited it to 40. Many of these corpses are believed to be in the river for several days as most were found bloated and partially burned, reports cited officials as saying.
Heavy demand for wood, crematoriums or burial sites led to rising in expenses of funerals. Such a situation is perceived as the reason for bodies being dumped directly in rivers. Local residents expressed their concerns about the inability to bear the expenses of proper burial of the dead.
Ashok Kumar, a local official, told AFP that concerned officials are directed to dispose of all corpses by burial or cremation. He added that the bodies found might have floated from Uttar Pradesh, India's most populated state.
"We retrieved 71 dead bodies and disposed of them after post-mortem. DNA samples have been preserved. The district administration is on alert to prevent such incidents in future. Officials have been directed to be vigilant and patrol the banks of the river," a release issued by the Buxar district administration said on Tuesday.
The release also said that there was "sufficient firewood at the Chausa cremation ground for funerals". The clarification came allegations from villagers that the high cost of firewood had led to many families jettisoning bodies in the river rather than creating them.
India's stats show that 4,000 people succumb to death per day due to the pandemic and the death toll stood almost at 250,000. However, experts suspect the real death tolls are much higher.
The third wave of pandemic seems inevitable in the country as the infection surge has spread beyond major cities reaching rural areas with no or fewer hospitals and poor health facilities.
With fast-spreading contagious variants, and irresponsible stand of the government allowing religious gatherings and political demonstrations have all brought India into a stalemate phase as the second worst-hit country globally.