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11th May 2021

Bodies wash up on banks of India’s holiest river as Covid rips through country

Charlie Herbert

It’s as the poorest dispose of bodies in the river due to the cost of cremations

Villagers in northern India discovered dozens of bodies washed up on the banks of the Ganges River, as Covid cases continue to surge in states and rural areas.

It is thought the bodies washed up because poor people are disposing of Covid victims in the river as they can’t afford the rising cost of cremations

As reported by the New York Times, residents found the bodies on Monday evening in Chausa, a riverine village in Bihar. Some officials have said that roughly 30 bodies were discovered, but people from the area have put the number at more than 100.

It is a tradition among some to send the remains of loved ones, weighted with stones, into the Ganges, which is the holiest river in Hinduism. Authorities suspect that many of the people discovered died of Covid-19.

Arun Kumar Srivastava, a government doctor in Chausa said that he had “never seen so many bodies” and that over recent days he has seen more and more people transporting dead bodies.

He said that “definitely more deaths were happening.”

On Tuesday the health ministry in India reported more than 386,000 cases and nearly 3,900 deaths, with the Covid crisis showing few signs of letting up. A quarter of a million have died across the country from the virus, although it is widely thought that the real figure is far higher. This is because of low testing levels and the large numbers of deaths in rural areas that typically go unrecorded.

At the same time as Covid deaths have overwhelmed funeral grounds though, some crematories have started charging five to 10 times the usual price for last rites.

Kishan Dutt Mishra, an ambulance driver in the Chausa area, said that the price of wood hjas risen beyond what many families can afford.

He said that whilst he was driving a seven-mile stretch along the Ganges between Chausa and another nearby town, he saw bodies all along the river.

“I have never seen even a few bodies, let alone so many of them, lining the river all through this stretch,” Mr Mishra said.

Over recent weeks, countries from all across the world have sent aid to India to help it cope with the crisis it is experiencing.