PATNA: Dozens of bodies, in various stages of decay, of suspected Covid-19 victims were spotted in the Ganges at Chausa block of Bihar’s Buxar district on Monday morning, sparking a scare.
While the locals said such sights were frequent ever since officials started dumping bodies into the river after running out of firewood at the crematoriums, authorities claimed they had flowed into the state from upstream Uttar Pradesh, where similar sightings at a border village in Ghazipur district were reported.
However, there was no clear word on the origin of the bodies. After the bodies were retrieved, Buxar DM Aman Samir ordered an inquest.
While the locals claimed that 40-45 bodies were spotted, the DM pegged the number at 30-35.
“These bodies are not of the people from Buxar. It has come from upstream Ganges,” Samir told media.
Confirming a similar sighting on the UP side of the Ganges, Ghazipur DM M P Singh told TNIE: “Buxar officials are coordinating with us. We spotted one body in the river in Ghazipur’s Bara village.”
However, Singh’s claim was contested in Gahmar, a village adjoining Bara, where locals claimed that not one, but several bodies were seen in the river.
They concurred with Chausa villagers that the sudden shortage of firewood owing to a jump in cost was responsible for the disposal of the bodies on the Ganges.
The river separates Bihar from UP, with Bara and Gahmar in Ghazipur on one bank and Chausa on the other.
Locals in Chausa said that spotting carrion birds and stray dogs eating half-burnt, bloated bodies had become common.
“Everyday bodies of Covid patients, either half-burnt or wrapped in plastic, are dumped into the river as there is a shortage of firewood,” a local said.
However, the authorities refuted the allegations, saying the local crematoriums had abundant stock of firewood and bodies were being cremated as per prescribed guidelines at Chausa ghats.
Buxar SDO KK Upadhayay later told the media that the bodies had flowed into the state from faraway places.
Meanwhile, health experts like Dr Rajiv Ranjan and Dr Madhusudan from Patna said such unceremonious disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims may lead to the spread of infection among humans and animals, too.
Meanwhile, the newly elected gram pradhan of Saurabh village in Karanda block of Ghazipur, Sima Jaiswal, wrote to the DM, alleging that 16 deaths, possibly due Covid, have occurred in the village in a month.
“In every house of the village, there are people suffering from cough-cold and fever. There have been instances, where people died within 3-4 days of the symptoms emerging.
There are such patients not only in Saurabh, but also in neighbouring Chandipur and Chochakpur villages, too.
Meanwhile, Ghazipur DM said mobile teams for collecting samples and distributing medical kits have been increased from four to 64.
“We have identified 400 villages.”
Cases surged from 16 to 1,216 in one month
As per official estimates, Buxar has registered a huge uptick in the number of Covid patients during the second wave. The number of positive cases was 16 on March 31 and it jumped to 1,216 on May 8. It registered 26 deaths in the period.
Chausa and Chitravans in the Buxar district have two popular cremations grounds where dead bodies are consigned to flame day and night.
"We were alerted by the local chowkidar that many bodies have been spotted floating from upstream. We have so far recovered 15 of these. None of the deceased happens to be a resident of the district," Chausa BDO Ashok Kumar said over the phone.
He said "many Uttar Pradesh districts are situated right across the river and the bodies may have been dumped in the Ganges for reasons not known to us. We cannot confirm whether the deceased were indeed Covid positive. The bodies have started decomposing. But we are taking all precautions while ensuring that these are disposed of in a decent manner".
Some news channels claimed the number of bodies to be as high as 100, which the BDO dismissed as "highly exaggerated".
As per official figures, Buxar registered a big surge in the number of Covid cases -- from 16 as of March 31 to 1,216 as of May 8 with 26 deaths.
When contacted, Buxar DM Aman Samir confirmed only 30 to 35 unidentified dead bodies were spotted at Chausa.
He denied that bodies in the river were from Buxar’s villages. “Bodies are not of Buxar. It is coming from upstream of Ganga,” DM Buxar Aman Samir said.
(With agency inputs)