PRAYAGRAJ, India – Police are reaching out to villagers in northern India to investigate the recovery of bodies buried in shallow sand graves or on the banks of the Ganges, which has sparked speculation on social media according to which were the remains of Covid-19 victims.
In jeeps and boats, police used portable speakers with microphones asking people not to dump bodies in rivers. “We are here to help you perform the last rites,” police said.
Rains on Friday exposed the cloth coverings of bodies buried in shallow sand graves by the river in Prayagraj, a town in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
Navneet Sehgal, a state government spokesperson, on Sunday denied local media reports that more than 1,000 corpses of Covid-19 victims had been recovered from rivers in the past two weeks. “I bet these bodies have nothing to do with Covid-19,” he said.
He said some villagers did not cremate their dead, as is customary, due to a Hindu tradition during certain times of religious significance and threw them into rivers or while digging graves on the riverbanks. .
KP Singh, a senior police official, said authorities had reserved a cremation ground for those who died of Covid-19 on the Prayagraj riverbank and that police no longer allowed any burials on the riverbank. river.
Sehgal state authorities found “a small number” of bodies on the riverbank, he said, but did not give a figure.
Ramesh Kumar Singh, a member of Bondhu Mahal Samiti, a philanthropic organization that helps cremate bodies, said the death toll is very high in rural areas and the poor dump bodies in the river due to the exorbitant cost representations. the last rites and the shortage of wood. The cost of cremation has tripled to 15,000 rupees ($ 210).
Last week, health authorities recovered 71 bodies washed up on the banks of the Ganges in neighboring Bihar state.
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Authorities performed autopsies, but said they could not confirm the cause of death from the decomposition.
A dozen corpses were also found last week buried in the sand at two riverside locations in the Unnao district, 40 km southwest of Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar. Pradesh. District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar said an investigation was underway to identify the cause of the deaths.
India’s two large states, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, with nearly 358 million inhabitants in total, are among the hardest hit in the outbreak that swept through the country with devastating death tolls. Unhappy villagers rushed the sick to nearby towns for treatment, many of them dying on the way, victims of crumbling healthcare in India.
After reaching record levels for weeks, the number of new cases was stabilizing, said Dr VK Paul, a government health expert.
The health ministry reported 311,170 confirmed cases in the past 24 hours on Sunday, up from 326,098 on Saturday.
It also reported 4,077 additional deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 270,284.
Both numbers are almost certainly a considerable undercoverage, experts say.