As per the ‘Shankh Smriti’, as long as the ashes of the deceased remain in the Ganga, they are considered to be in a worthy place for a thousand years. Barely a month ago, the Mahakumbh 2021 took place in Haridwar. It ended on April 30 and as per the Kumbh Mela Force, a government body, 9.1 million pilgrims had taken a dip in the Ganga from January 14 to April 27.
Beside this, massive election rallies almost on a daily basis were held across Bengal and Assam and most Indians had conveniently tossed their masks, along with other Covid safety protocols, out of the window. Comeuppance was inevitable. On May 10, the same Ganga where the 9.1 million had taken the holy dip became a dumping ground for the dead.
Disturbing visuals of dogs wading in and out of the waters sent ripples of Covid fears bubbling through when scores of bloated bodies were seen floating in the river near Chausa. “Chausa is located on the Bihar-Uttar Pradesh border. These bodies were definitely tossed into the waters in the districts of Uttar Pradesh. We have deployed guards at Mahadev Ghat and cremations of the bodies are underway,” said Chausa Block Development Officer Ashok Kumar.
It is certain that there's no improvement in the prevailing Covid situation, and somewhere, someone is blatantly lying about the statistics.
Uttar Pradesh recorded 21,331 fresh Covid-19 cases on Monday, its tally going up to 15,24,767 while with 278 fatalities the death toll is now 15,742. With a total of 851,620 infections and 9,830 fatalities since the pandemic began last year, Uttar Pradesh had not fared too badly in the first wave that ravaged many states. But the second wave has brought UP to the brink!
With 240 million people, Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state. It is on an average, home to every sixth Indian. If it were a separate country, it would have been the fifth largest in terms of population in the world, behind China, India, US and Indonesia.
The NITI Aayog has said UP will report the highest number of daily cases in India by April 30, at 119,604.
What is shocking is that even today, a large number of villages, situated on the banks of Ganga, use the river water for drinking purposes, as several villages have reported the presence of arsenic in ground water in Buxar and nearby Bhojpur district.
By Monday, the world's largest vaccine-producing nation had vaccinated just over 34.8 million, or about 2.5 per cent of a population of about 1.35 billion, government data revealed.
World Health Organisation Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan told the AFP in an interview, “early signs were missed (in India) until it reached the point at which it was taking off vertically”, meaning “it’s multiplying at a rate at which it’s very difficult to stop”.
Impact on public health
The body ‘blow’ for the Ganga will have a far-reaching impact on the health of people in the adjoining villages and if these bodies are those of Covid victims, the impact on the river water which is used by countless Indians will not be known immediately. Meanwhile, using the holy Ganga as a ‘wholly’ dumping space also speaks volumes about the lack of space at cremation grounds, where at least a modicum of respect is shown to the mortal remains of the dead.
Tossing the departed into the holiest of holy rivers is as far-removed from ‘moksh’ as can be; though it can be guaranteed that the living who witness such sights will be haunted by the memory for as long as they live. Whether this causes soul-churning in the right quarters, however, will remain a matter for mortal speculation.
The writer is Senior Associate Editor, Free Press, Indore.