People living near the banks of the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have been witnessing a ghastly sight of dead bodies washing up on the river bank. According to a report, over 2,000 bodies in various UP districts were found to be hastily buried or abandoned along the banks of the holy river. This have sparked fears about the scale of the COVID-19 crisis in the country, especially in rural areas. Authorities believe the relatives of those who succumbed to the virus, may not have been able to find space for the last rites.
Terming it "undesirable and alarming", the Centre has directed the state governments to prevent dumping of dead bodies in Ganga and focus on their safe disposal. "The country is facing an extraordinary situation wherein a number of COVID-19 cases and consequential deaths have been on the rise in many States and UTs in the recent past. Dumping of dead bodies/ partially burnt or decomposed corpses in the river Ganga and its tributaries have recently been reported. This is most undesirable and alarming," a government release said.
Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Pankaj Kumar, reviewed the action taken in the states of UP and Bihar, said the release. "The Secretary highlighted the instructions already given and wanted expeditious action and also underscored the need to give equal attention to such incidents in urban as well as rural areas along Ganga and other rivers. Stopping of dumping of dead bodies as well as their safe disposal and protection of water quality has to be attended to on war footing. He said that after knowing the progress from states, CWC, CPCB and State Pollution Control Boards would also be giving their feedback and action plans," it added.
Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga stated that the situation is being followed up with several districts like Unnao, Kanpur rural, Ghazipur, Balia and Buxar, Saran in Bihar. However, some cases are also reported from other districts as well. "He asked the state missions to follow up action taken with all districts. He said that there is need to strengthen enforcement, maintain vigil and also take proactive action to facilitate and support the families for cremation of dead bodies and asked state missions to specifically report on this. If needed, Project Directors can assess and also give support to District Ganga Committees for this out of NMCG funds available with them while keeping NMCG informed," the release further said.
Debashree Mukherjee, Addl. Secretary, MoJS stated that besides urgent assessment of the risks imposed to the river-side communities by the PCBs, there is a need for spreading awareness with the riverside communities on dos/ don’t for the use of river water and to prevent such incidents of dumping of bodies in the river.
Taking note of the above status and action taken so far, it was further decided that along with action to prevent dumping of dead bodies in river, burying of dead bodies in sand along the river must also be prevented. A suitable awareness generation program needs to be taken up against the ill effects of such practices. State Pollution Control Boards were directed to improve and make more frequent water quality monitoring in consultations with the health department. The CPCB was assigned the task of over-all monitoring and giving guidance to state pollution control boards and to take up advanced analysis in the matter. Support for cremation needs to be given top priority for safe and dignified cremation, the release added.