Floating bodies found in Varanasi; more found buried in Unnao
Days after dozens of decomposing dead bodies were seen floating in Ganga river of Bihar's Buxar district, at least four corpses turned up in different parts of the river along Varanasi ghats on Wednesday. Authorities in Unnao, meanwhile, found bodies buried in the sand near Ganga, with the District Magistrate saying that locals who couldn't carry out last rites must have abandoned these bodies.
While two bodies were found floating in the river in Varanasi, two were found across the banks, lying on the sand. Across the ghats, two bodies were spotted on the sandbanks of the river. Boatmen on the Varanasi ghats had complained of a foul stench and said that locals from the other side of the banks have been dumping bodies in the river water.
Locals in Unnao were alarmed to see dogs scraping on some bodies buried in the sand. Without disclosing the number of bodies recovered, Unnao DM Ravindra Kumar told India Today, "Our team found buried bodies in an area far from Ganga river. A search is being conducted for more bodies in other areas. I have asked a team to carry out an inquiry."
The Unnao DM said that Buksar village, one of the spots where bodies were found, is a major cremation spot for Fatehpur, Raebareli and Unnao districts. He said that while some people burn the bodies, others bury them in the sand by the river.
Seven additional corpses were spotted floating in Ganga in Ballia district till Wednesday, with the count of bodies reaching 52, reported India Today. The district administration has been performing last rites as there is a possibility that the deceased had COVID-19. Locals said at least 45 bodies were seen floating near the Ujiyar, Kulhadia, and Bharauli ghats in the Narahi area on Tuesday evening.
At least 96 unidentified bodies were found floating in the Ganga over the past few days, triggering fears among local residents in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that bodies of COVID-19 victims were being dumped in the river. While 71 bodies have been fished out in Bihar's Buxar district, at least 25 bodies were found in neighboring Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur district, reported The Indian Express.
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Tuesday sought an investigation by both states. "Floating bodies in Ganga in Buxar, Bihar is unfortunate. It is surely a matter of investigation. (Narendra) Modi government is committed to maintaining piety and continuity of mother Ganga. States concerned (Bihar and UP) must take cognizance of the matter immediately," he had tweeted.
The Centre on Tuesday asked states along the Ganga to ensure strict vigilance and check future incidences of people dumping bodies in the river and its tributaries. In a letter to District Ganga Committees, which are chaired by DMs or collectors, the National Mission for Clean Ganga asked the authorities to dispose of unidentified bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims in accordance with safety protocols.
"Ensure strict vigilance along the length of the river...to prevent and check such future incidences of people dumping dead bodies in Ganga...of any other activity hazardous for the river and health and hygiene of the area," said NMCG Director General Rajiv Ranjan Mishra. The letter asked for an Action Taken Report to be submitted to the NMCG in the next 14 days.
The NMCG Director further said dumping of bodies/partially dumped bodies/decomposed corpses not only causes pollution in the river, but is also unhygienic and increases the risk of spreading infections in communities inhabiting the banks of rivers. Guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences suggest a possibility of contracting COVID-19 infection while handling dead bodies.