At least 96 unidentified bodies – many of them decomposed and bloated – have been found floating in the Ganga over the past couple of days, triggering fears among local residents in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that bodies of Covid victims were being dumped in the river. While 71 of the bodies have been fished out in Bihar’s Buxar district, at least 25 bodies were found in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district.
While authorities in both districts are yet to confirm if the bodies were of Covid victims, saying samples have been sent for tests, police in Buxar said they suspected the bodies may have floated in from Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh.
The central government has taken serious note of the issue, with Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Tuesday seeking 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 [Bihar and UP] concerned must take cognizance of the matter immediately,” he tweeted.
Buxar SP Neeraj Kumar told The Indian Express: “We have so far fished out 71 bodies from the Ganga. We conducted postmortem of all bodies and have also taken DNA and Covid samples.” He said the bodies were disposed of as per government Covid protocols.
He said the police had been carrying out an inspection in the area to find out if the bodies could be of local residents. “Some bodies could have floated in from UP. It is subject of investigation for Bihar and UP police,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh’s ADG (Law and order) Prashant Kumar told The Indian Express: “The bodies have been found in Bihar, and it is the responsibility of the Bihar government to investigate them and take further action. It is not right to blame UP.”
Buxar District Magistrate Aman Sameer said the local administration has been keeping a close watch on Ganga ghats to ensure that bodies are not allowed to be dumped in the river. Buxar has so far 1,172 active Covid cases. The district recorded 26 Covid deaths till Monday.
The Uttar Pradesh government has already passed an order directing people to stop Jal Samadhi – a ritual followed by some communities in which bodies are disposed by putting them in the river. “This order is being followed strictly in the state,” ADG Kumar said.
The bodies in Buxar were first noticed by villagers near Mahadeva cremation ground along the river in Buxar’s Chousa village on Monday. They then alerted the district authorities.
In Ghazipur, authorities said at least 25 unidentified bodies were found floating in the Ganga over the past two days. Varanasi (range) IG Suvendra K Bhagat said on Tuesday he can’t give the exact number” but at least 25 bodies have been recovered. “We have gotten a review done. It has come to our knowledge that two types of bodies were found floating in the river,” he said. Some communities follow Jal Samadhi or “Jal Pravah”, which means disposing the bodies in the river, he said. The other type was half-burnt bodies being dumped in the river by people carrying out cremations.
The IG said all measures have been taken to stop these practices along the Ganga. “We have increased patrolling in villages along the river to ensure that bodies are not dumped in the river,” he said.
On the possibility of whether the bodies could have floated in from other districts, Bhagat said, “It is difficult to ascertain where the bodies came from. But they could have come from upstream. These bodies are badly decomposed.”
In Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga flows through Kanpur, Hamirpur, Prayagraj, Chandauli, Varanasi, Ghazipur and then enters Bihar’s Buxar district.
“The bodies are being disposed of using Covid protocol,” said Bhagat, although it was not yet clear if they were of Covid victims.
Varanasi Divisional Commi-ssioner Deepak Agarwal said the bodies were recovered at different places in Ghazipur district along the Ganga. “There is no way to ascertain if these deaths were due to Covid. None of the bodies could be identified,” he said.
Circle Officer (Jamania) Hitendra Krishna said 23 bodies were found under Jamania circle of Ghazipur.
According to state government data, in the past 15 days, 59 people have died in Ghazipur district due to Covid, taking the toll in the district to 178.
District Ganga panels told to address issue of disposal of bodies
Taking cognizance of reports regarding the dumping of dead bodies in the Ganga river and its tributaries, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) on Tuesday asked all District Ganga Committees to take “necessary action” to address the issue and submit an “action taken report” within 14 days.
NMCG Director General Rajiv Ranjan Mishra asked the panels to “immediately stop dumping of dead bodies, partially burnt bodies/ unclaimed or unidentified corpses in the river Ganga and its tributaries”. He also asked them to ensure that all unidentified bodies are “properly disposed-off in accordance with the Covid-safety protocols”. — Express News Service
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