As the Narendra Modi-led government faces criticism over the number of bodies found floating in the country's rivers, a public interest litigation (PIL) has been filed in India's top court demanding a policy to protect the rights of the dead.
The plea filed by Delhi-based NGO Distress Management Collective argues that specific legislation is needed to ensure that those who die are given a dignified cremation or burial.
According to the NGO, the Supreme Court should issue guidelines to India's states and Union Territories (UTs) regarding rates for cremations, burials, and ambulance services to stop people being overcharged. Additionally, the plea seeks strict penal action against states for non-compliance.
"In view of the fact that issue of floating dead bodies in River Ganga has attracted unwanted global media attention, it is imperative that this Hon'ble Apex court directs the Centre to consider the gravity of the issue and enact a law that ensures dignity and the rights of the dead," the plea reads.
It adds that overcharging for cremations and ambulances is directly related to the dumping of bodies in the Ganges. Many families have reportedly resorted to such measures because they simply can't afford to cremate their relatives. Multiple reports say that the cost of cremating the dead in India has now risen to around $400 from $70 in April.
However, bodies are still being pulled out of the river and the way in which the authorities are treating these remains is being criticised on social media.
Warning: The following video is graphic and may offend sensibilities.
हे गंगा पुत्र, तनिक अपनी 56 इंचीं छाती में थोड़ा ऑक्सीजन डालो ताकि आँखें थोड़ी बड़ी करके बिहार में बह रही इस गंगा को ठीक से निहार सको..!— Tej Pratap Yadav (@TejYadav14) May 10, 2021
थके हुए चच्चा जी..! अगर आपसे नहीं हो पा रहा तो बेशर्मी का Limit काहे Cross कर रहे हैं, कुर्सी का मोह त्याग कर इस्तीफ़ा क्यूँ नहीं दे देते हैं। pic.twitter.com/bdXLFjitFR
Recently, a body fished out of the Ganges in the Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh state was given a makeshift cremation using tyres and petrol as the police and local officials looked on from a distance.
The horrifying images of floating dead bodies have forced the government into action. Cops are now patrolling the banks of waterways and state authorities have created a network of free cremation sites. The government has also made firewood and priests available to families of COVID-19 victims.