Videos of several bodies of suspected COVID-19 victims floating at the Mahadeo ghat (bank) of the Ganga at Chausa village in Bihar, have gone viral on social media, sparking outrage and shock. Officials who visited the site said the bodies might have floated in from adjoining districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Chausa is about 10 kms from the headquarters of the border district of Buxar, adjoining eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The villagers first spotted several bodies floating along the bank of the river on Monday morning and informed local authorities.
“Nearly 30-40 dead bodies can be seen in the Ganga and there are stray dogs roaming around. Yes, most of them are likely to be those of COVID-19 victims,” social activist and local lawyer Ashwini Varma told The Hindu over the phone.
According to Mr. Varma, the exorbitant cost of cremation could have forced the poor to jettison bodies in the river.
“It nearly costs ₹30,000-40,000 to cremate a body. So the poor people prefer to push bodies into the river Ganga,” he said. “Stray dogs are devouring these bodies which could be of COVID-19 victims. It will spread the virus as well,” he added.
Local officials who visited the village, however, said there were “about 10-12 dead bodies floating in the river water”. While acknowledging that most of the bodies could of COVID victims, officials said “they could have floated in from neighbouring districts of U.P.
“The dead bodies are bloated. They seem to have been in the water for at least 5-7 days. It needs to be investigated from where they’ve come. They could be from Varanasi or Allahabad,” senior official of the district K.K. Upadhayay told media persons.
Chausa Block Development Officer (BDO) Ashok Kumar said, “None of the deceased happens to be a resident of the district”, adding, “how can we confirm whether the deceased were indeed COVID-19 positive? The bodies have decomposed and bloated but we’re ensuring they would be disposed off in decent manner.”
However, the villagers of Chausa said, “The local officials came, visited the spot, looked at the floating bodies from the river bank and went back.”
Demanding the deployment of officials at cremation grounds to prevent people from pushing bodies into the river, the villagers also wanted the prices of firewood to be kept in check so that families can perform their last rites properly and are not forced to discard bodies.
“The villagers also are panicked and terrified over the spread of COVID-19 virus via these bodies,” a local journalist Kaushalendra Kumar told The Hindu .
“Stray dogs are devouring the bodies which could be of COVID victims. It will spread the virus among the villagers,” say apprehensive villagers.