India's Holiest River Was Dumping Ground for Dead During Second COVID Wave, Ganga Mission Chief Says
11:35 GMT 24.12.2021 (Updated: 10:41 GMT 19.07.2022)
Around 2,000 corpses were found either floating or buried on the banks of the Ganges (Ganga) River in India in May 2021 when the country was hit by the devastating second wave of coronavirus. It is believed that most of the bodies belonged to COVID-19 victims, as many Indian cities ran out of the capacity to cremate them.
Director-General of the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and head of Namami Gange Programme Ranjan Mishra has admitted in his book that the river became an "easy dumping ground for the dead" during the second wave of COVID-19 in May 2021.
The book, titled "Ganga: Reimagining, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting" and authored by Mishra and and Puskal Upadhyay, who has worked with the NMCG, was launched on Thursday by Bibek Debroy, the chairperson of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister.
"As the number of bodies swelled and multiplied because of the COVID-19 pandemic, overwhelming district administrations and stretching the functional limits of crematoria and burning ghats of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Ganga became an easy dumping ground for the dead," reads the book, as quoted by the Indian Express.
© AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar SinghBodies of suspected Covid-19 victims are seen in shallow graves buried in the sand near a cremation ground on the banks of Ganges River in Prayagraj, India, Saturday, May 15, 2021
Bodies of suspected Covid-19 victims are seen in shallow graves buried in the sand near a cremation ground on the banks of Ganges River in Prayagraj, India, Saturday, May 15, 2021
© AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh
Mishra described the "macabre images" as a "traumatic and heart-breaking experience" for him.
In May, horrific scenes emerged from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where more than 2,000 dead bodies were recovered along a 1,100 km stretch of the Ganges' banks. However, it is not yet clear who dumped these bodies into the river or turned its banks into a mass grave.
Those cases emerged at a time when the country's health infrastructure was crumbling under the second wave of COVID-19, leading to a massive surge in cases and deaths.
At the time, the number of new infections crossed the 300,000 per day mark in April-May and even touched 400,000 for a few days in May. The death toll was in the thousands, but several reports alleged that many fatalities were unreported.