If the mass graves of suspected COVID patients sprawled across the banks of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh was a shocking sight, these bodies have now started floating as the monsoon rains fill the sandbanks at Prayagraj.
Visuals and photos circulated on social media in the past few days have shown authorities, with the help of local labourers, trying to fish out the corpses from the water and give them a proper cremation.
Even though the number of the corpses is high, the officials say all bodies are being cremated individually with strict adherence to rituals.
Niraj Kumar Singh, zonal officer for the Prayagraj Municipal Corporation told NDTV that he himself has supervised the recovery and cremation of at least 40 bodies in the past 24 hours.
Officials at the spot said not all bodies were decomposed and some seemed to be freshly buried.
Prayagraj Mayor Abhilasha Gupta Nandi said the bodies could have been buried as part of customs of several communities in the state. But the administration is cremating these bodies as sand banks tend to preserve them instead of dissolving them.
“Wherever we find exposed bodies because of the spate in the river, we are carrying out cremations,” she told NDTV.
Videos of scores of bodies floating in the Ganges in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in May, when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, drew massive public outrage. The bodies were suspected to be those of COVID-19 patients. It also gave rise to the theory that the number of COVID-19 deaths is being underreported by the government.
In a day, Bihar alone saw the exhumation of more than 70 bodies.
The Uttar Pradesh government, however, rebutted the allegations stating that the state had a tradition of burying bodies.
Even though the dumping of the body in the already-polluted Ganga has raised pollution concerns among conservationists, the Jal Shakti Ministry recently said that the incident has not increased the pollution level in the river.
The ministry has now entrusted the CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), Lucknow to find out if the river water was contaminated with SARS COV-2 virus due to the dumping of the cadavers.