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Relatives carry a body past shallow graves of suspected Covid-19 vicitims near a cremation ground on the banks of the Ganges River in Shringverpur village, India, on May 15. 
Relatives carry a body past shallow graves of suspected Covid-19 vicitims near a cremation ground on the banks of the Ganges River in Shringverpur village, India, on May 15.  Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images 

The Indian government has described the discovery of bodies of suspected Covid-19 victims dumped in the Ganges River as “undesirable and alarming,” in a press release Sunday night, acknowledging the practice for the first time.

Scores of bodies have washed up along the banks of the Ganges river or been found in shallow graves along the riverbed, as the country’s second wave continues to devastate much of the country.

“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,” the government press release read. “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.”

Over the past 10 days, villages situated along the river in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in eastern India have reported badly decomposed corpses washing ashore.

In Bihar’s Buxar district, at least 71 bodies were recovered last week. The cause of death has not been determined as the corpses are in poor condition but all of them are now being cremated, district officials said.

In the Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, officials discovered an excessive amounts of shallow graves dug in the riverbed.

“They were buried along in the sand and it has been done in the past… It is not clear that they are Covid patients. They are not confirmed cases from hospitals. This is from the villages. We can’t say if they are people who never got tested for Covid,” said Suresh Kulkarni, senior police official, Unnao.

Kulkarni confirmed that nearly 60 bodies were recovered from one section of the riverbank but Indian media has estimated the numbers to be much higher.

Authorities in Bihar state set up a net across the river, according to a tweet from the state’s Minister for Water Resources, Sanjay Kumar Jha last Thursday.

The government has asked states along the river to patrol the banks to ensure no bodies are immersed and officials have been directed to arrange wood for proper cremations, especially for families which may not be able to afford them.

“A suitable awareness generation program needs to be taken up against the ill effects of such practices,” the government press release read. “Support for cremation needs to be given top priority for safe and dignified cremation. Effective implementation of the Govt orders needs to be ensured and no loss of time should take place in implementation.”

India has been battling a devastating second wave of Covid-19 for over one month during which tens of thousands of people have died.

The National Human Rights Commission issued an advisory Friday asking states and the federal government to ensure dignity and rights of the dead.

Read more on India’s coronavirus crisis here:

Analysis: Another national lockdown is not realistic for India



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