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Bodies of COVID-19 victims among those dumped in India's Ganges - government document

CoronavirusMay 16, 2021 07:40AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective suit touches the body of his relative, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), before his cremation on the banks of the river Ganges at Garhmukteshwar in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India, May 6, 2

By Krishna N. Das

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Bodies of COVID-19 victims have been found dumped in some Indian rivers, a state government said in a letter seen by Reuters, the first official acknowledgement of an alarming practice it said may stem from poverty and fear of the disease in villages.

Images of corpses drifting down the Ganges river, which Hindus consider holy, have shocked a nation reeling under the world's worst surge in infections.

Although media have linked the recent increase in the numbers of such bodies to the pandemic, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, home to 240 million people, has until now not publicly revealed the cause of the deaths.

"The administration has information that bodies of those who have succumbed to COVID-19 or any other disease are being thrown into rivers instead of being disposed of as per proper rituals," a senior state official, Manoj Kumar Singh, said in a May 14 letter to district heads that was reviewed by Reuters.

"As a result, bodies have been recovered from rivers in many places."

Singh confirmed the letter to Reuters but said autopsies on four to five bodies in the state's disrict of Ghazipur had not revealed virus infection.

"The bodies are decomposed, so I am not sure in this state it can be found out about corona positive," he said in a text message.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged officials on Saturday to beef up rural healthcare resources and boost surveillance as the virus spreads rapidly in those areas, after ravaging the cities.

Uttar Pradesh, home to more people than Brazil or Pakistan, has been badly hit by India's dramatic second surge of COVID-19. Health experts say many cases are going undetected in the state's villages, home to the bulk of its people.

In the memo, Singh said a lack of funds for materials such as firewood for cremation, religious beliefs in some communities, and families abandoning victims for fear of the disease were among the likely reasons for the surge in dumping.

He asked village-level officials to ensure no corpses were thrown into water and said the state government would pay poor families 5,000 rupees ($68) each to cremate or bury the bodies of the dead.

The state has also asked police to patrol rivers to stop the practice.

India has been officially reporting about 4,000 daily deaths from the disease for nearly two weeks, but health experts say the toll is probably much higher because of factors such as poor testing in rural areas.

The jump in deaths has led to backlogs at crematoriums in many places and multiplied the cost of last rites.

On Saturday, Uttar Pradesh spokesman Navneet Sehgal denied media reports that as many as 2,000 corpses of possible virus victims had been pulled from rivers in the state and neighbouring Bihar in recent days.

"We keep recovering 10 to 20 bodies every now and then," Sehgal told Reuters, adding that some riverside villages did not cremate their dead due to Hindu traditions during some periods of religious significance.

Bihar officials did not respond to requests for comment.

(Global vaccination tracker: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccination-rollout-and-access)

Bodies of COVID-19 victims among those dumped in India's Ganges - government document
 

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Comments (6)
TheGamingFoxy FoxyGamer
TheGamingFoxy FoxyGamer May 16, 2021 1:59PM ET
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meanwhile china landed her 1st rover in mars...
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey May 16, 2021 12:50PM ET
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Crisis actors being used by media.Dont believe a word you read from Reuters
Adrian White
Adrian White May 16, 2021 12:50PM ET
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Eudon, please relax with the constant conspiracy theories. It must be tiring for you.
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey May 16, 2021 12:50PM ET
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Adrian White - the roman catholic church (priests) and little boys were conspiracy theories as well, till it wasnt anymore. Wake up
Mart Bab
Rubberduck1973 May 16, 2021 8:52AM ET
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Hooray for humanity 🙁🙈
Mart Bab
Rubberduck1973 May 16, 2021 8:52AM ET
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It’s a good thing we are able to send a robot to Mars
CHAD TENDIES
CHAD TENDIES May 16, 2021 8:23AM ET
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Scamdemic
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony May 15, 2021 5:37PM ET
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Don't eat fish from india
Alan Rice
Alan Rice May 15, 2021 3:03PM ET
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India: Consider Jesus ??
Sandeep Singh
Sandeep Singh May 15, 2021 3:03PM ET
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Probably a very few of the total population (not more than 1%)
 
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