Bodies of COVID-19 victims among those dumped in India’s Ganges -gov’t document

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, 2021. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

Bodies of COVID-19 victims have been found dumped in some Indian rivers, a state government letter seen by Reuters says, in the first official acknowledgement of the alarming practice, which it said may stem from poverty and fear of the disease in remote areas.

Images of corpses drifting down the Ganges river, which is considered holy in Hinduism, have shocked the country, reeling under the world’s worst surge in COVID-19 cases.

Although media reports have linked the increase in the number of bodies found floating in the river and its tributaries in recent days to the pandemic, India’s 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 letter dated May 14 to district heads that was reviewed by Reuters.

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

Singh was not immediately reachable for comment.

The acknowledgment comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday called on officials to strengthen healthcare resources in rural areas and step up 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 in COVID-19 cases. Health experts say many cases are now going undetected in the villages of Uttar Pradesh, where most of its people live.

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