Haunting view on the banks of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh.

The rural population was haunted as the rain earlier this week in central and eastern parts of Uttar pradesh led to panic among the people as it exposed the mass shallow graves of people died with Covid-19 along the Ganga in different districts of the state.

Taking a serious note of the development, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has advised Uttar Pradesh and Bihar (the two most populous states) to immediately check the trend of burying bodies along the banks of the river as it could lead to further spread of infection. Corpses mainly found in Kanpur, Unnao, Ghazipur, Kannauj, Ballia and Ghazipur districts

Earlier, Bihar’s Buxar authorities had fished out 71 bodies of suspected Covid-19 victims from the Ganga, claiming these had come from the neighbouring eastern UP. Days later, several media reports suggested that thousands of bodies were found in the shallow graves in various UP districts. The reports claimed that the corpses were hastily buried along the banks of the Ganga in several districts, including Kanpur, Unnao, Ghazipur, Kannauj, Ballia and Ghazipur.

Noting that the visuals of the spots were “disturbing”, a senior official of the UP Government said the state administration had taken a number of steps to arrest the trend.

“These include giving Rs 5,000 to the next of the kin of the deceased persons, enhancing patrolling along the river by teams of the SDRF and PAC’s water police and sensitising panchayat leaders to ensure that people do not abandon the bodies,” he said.

Brijmohan Mishra, a social worker and activist, told The Tribune that the main reason for relatives abandoning bodies of Covid victims was largely due to the highly contagious nature of the virus. “People fear getting infected so they don’t touch the bodies. Since the number of deaths is so high, the state support system appears to have collapsed completely,” he said.

Mishra said when he talked to family members of some of the victims, they told him that they either didn’t have enough financial resources or felt stigmatised to offer respectful cremation to the dead.

Sources in the MHA said the trend of dumping bodies was being noticed largely in four UP districts — Kanpur, Ghazipur, Unnao and Balia. Bodies were also going further downstream to Bihar from these districts. Both states have been asked to take immediate corrective steps, they added.

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