Liputan6.com, Jakarta – The gruesome sight is back in Ganges River, India. Seasonal flooding in the region sadly swept away shallow-depth cemeteries on the banks of the river, leaving so many bodies of Covid-19 victims floating.
Reported Channel News Asia, Monday (28/6/2021), Neeraj Kumar Singh, official in the northern city of Allahabad, said that nearly 150 bodies had to be cremated in the last three weeks due to flooding.
“We don’t dig graves. Only (cremate) bodies that float due to rising water levels,” he explained to AFP. “The area is spread over a kilometer and we estimate there are about 500–600 bodies buried.”
Most of the bodies are believed to have died from the Covid-19 storm in April and May 2021. At that time, India was hit by a spike in infections that flooded hospitals in many areas.
Some families cannot afford firewood for traditional Hindu cremation ceremonies, so bodies are buried in the Ganges River or buried in sandbars adjacent to the river.
The area is currently flooded due to the annual monsoon rains. The water flow washed away the sand and revealed bodies buried at shallow depths.
More Than the Official Amount
The number of shallow graves has again fueled suspicions that India’s total death toll from the pandemic may be more than 1 million. That’s several times the official figure, which is nearly 400 thousand.
Last month, police contacted villagers in northern India to investigate finding hundreds of bodies in shallow sand graves or washed up on the banks of the Ganges. The findings sparked speculation on social media that they were the bodies of Covid-19 victims.
Associated Press reported, police used microphones in jeeps and boats to go around the village. They asked residents not to throw bodies into the river.
“We are here to help you perform the final rites,” the police said. Earlier, on May 14, 2021, rain uncovered a cloth covering a corpse that had been buried in shallow sand on a riverbank in Prayagraj, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The high cost of cremation of the body
At the time, officials said riverside burials had been going on for decades. But, with the many bodies uncovered last weekend, plus the shadow of the pandemic, there are concerns about the practice.
Navneet Sehgal, spokeswoman for the state government, denied local media reports that more than a thousand bodies of Covid-19 victims had been recovered from rivers in the past two weeks.
“I believe these bodies have nothing to do with Covid-19,” he said. He also said that some villagers did not cremate bodies as is customary. That’s because the cost of the Hindu tradition is expensive.
The cost of cremation in India has recently tripled to 15,000 rupees (Rp 3.1 million). Instead, residents put the bodies into the river or by digging shallow graves on the banks of the river.