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8 deaths, a cremation every 3rd day: This UP family is testimony to Covid devastation in state

Between 22 April and 15 May, the family of Yadavs in Imaliya village, on the outskirts of Lucknow, lost eight family members to Covid-19.

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Lucknow: One after the other, the pyres burnt, sometimes two in a day — eight members of the Yadav family at Imaliya village, on the outskirts of Lucknow, succumbed to Covid in just 24 days, a reflection of the devastation that the pandemic is wreaking in Uttar Pradesh. 

Now at their ancestral six-bedroom home, there is emptiness, sorrow and grief. Five photos of the deceased family members sit on a table in the hall, shrouded by smoke from the diyas and agarbattis lit in their honour (Photographs of three women relatives are at the homes of their in-laws).

Ujad gaya hai sab, jeene ka ab kya matlab? Sabko le gaye. Humein bidhwa aur baccho ko bin maap-baap kar geya (Everything is destroyed. What’s the point of living now? It took everyone; we have become widowed and children have become fatherless and motherless),” said Kusma Yadav, pointing towards the photograph of her husband Vijay Kumar Yadav. 

Beside her stood her sisters-in-law Anupama Yadav and Seema Singh, pointing towards their husbands — Vinod Kumar Yadav and Nirankar Yadav — sobbing uncontrollably, as their children watched helplessly.

Stunned by the deaths that occurred between 22 April and 15 May, the family held tervi, the last day to mourn the death of a person according to Hindu tradition, of all eight members together on 31 May. 

Neighbours paying respects to the deceased family members | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint
Neighbours paying respects to the deceased family members | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint

Deaths, deaths & deaths — 1 cremation in 3 days 

It all began on 7 April, when Kunwar Pratap Singh, Kusma’s nephew, complained of breathlessness, pain and fever. 

The 27-year-old Kunwar was admitted to a hospital after his oxygen levels dropped. 

“I had symptoms from 7 April and after my oxygen level dropped to 80, I was rushed to the hospital,” said Kunwar, who still suffers from breathing difficulties. “After 4-5 days, the rest of the family members started falling sick and four of them had to be admitted as their oxygen levels dropped too.” 

Kunwar Pratap Singh was the first in the family to fall sick | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint
Kunwar Pratap Singh was the first in the family to fall sick | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint

In the days that followed, his father Vinod Kumar Yadav, and uncles Vijay Kumar Yadav, Nirankar Yadav and Satyaprakash Yadav were all hospitalised. 

The first death in the family was of Kunwar’s bua (aunt) — 56 year old Mithilesh Yadav — who passed away on 22 April. She had been taken away to her in-laws’ home in another village, Ishapur, by her sons. 

“We couldn’t understand what was happening; they said that it would be easier to take care of her there. She died within three to four days of reaching there,” the 27-year-old said. 

Three days later on 25 April, Kunwar’s 42-year-old uncle Nirankar Yadav and his dadi (grandmother), 80-year-old Kamla Devi, succumbed to the virus. On 27 April, another aunt Shail Yadav, 55, died. 

Two days later, his father, 61-year-old Vinod died, followed by his uncle, 63-year-old Vijay, on 1 May. 

On 11 May, Kunwar’s grandfather’s sister, 85-year-old Roop Rani, died and four days later on 15 May, Kunwar’s youngest uncle — 38-year-old Satyaprakash Yadav, who leaves behind a four-year-old daughter, also passed away. 

“We rushed from hospital to hospital for beds and oxygen, by the time we managed something, they all died one after the other,” Kunwar said.

“Everything was full of chaos, most hospitals didn’t have oxygen. My grandfather’s oxygen level was normal but his kidney failed. Satyaprakash chacha was doing fine but he got a lung infection after testing negative. He needed a ventilator bed urgently but no beds were empty. Finally at 4 am, we found one but by then, his oxygen level reached below 50 and he died.” 

Almost everyone in this family of around 30 had contracted the virus. They say that whatever money that had saved has gone in hospital bills and nothing is left to pay for the education of their children or to feed them.

A report submitted by then Bakshi Ka Talab Sub-divisional Magistrate (SDM) Subhe Singh — under whose jurisdiction the village falls — to Lucknow District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash and dated 18 May, a copy of which was accessed by ThePrint, says a probe has revealed that the family had got infected with Covid after one of them had attended funeral rites of his sister in another village. The report also states that sanitisation was done there on 18 May. 

Denying the allegations, however, and refuting the report, Kunwar said, “My father had visited the village to attend funeral rites of someone in my sister-in-law’s side on 9 May. I had symptoms from 7 May. This is wrong.” 

ThePrint contacted Lucknow DM Abhishek Prakash through repeated calls and WhatsApp messages but received no response until the publishing this copy. 

Karan Yadav, son of Nirankar Yadav, places a ritual shroud at his father's samadhi | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint
Karan Yadav, son of Nirankar Yadav, places a ritual shroud at his father’s samadhi | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint

Symptomatic villagers 

Local residents of Imaliya said almost half the villagers had Covid symptoms at some point during the second wave. While only 10-20 actually got themselves tested, others remained in home isolation, and didn’t get tested. 

“Around 10-20 people tested positive on paper while 50-60 others were hiding in their homes,” said Ram Pyare, a village resident. “I was bedridden for a month myself but neither did I tell anyone about the fever at that time nor got myself tested, because then they would have got me admitted to the hospital and I would have also ended up dead. I had herbal juices of neem and babul.” 

Villagers said that around 11 people, including eight in Kunwar’s family, died from Covid-19 in the second wave. 

Atul Yadav, a distant relative of Kunwar’s family, said, “Almost half the village had symptoms, can’t tell anyone about them being positive”. 

Atul’s father had shown symptoms in the first week of April, and later tested positive. He and his wife also contracted the virus in the following days. “My father was the first person to show symptoms,” Yadav added. 

When asked, some villagers complained that the spread of infection was due to the panchayat polls. While this village comes under the Lucknow Nagar Nigam and no polling was held here, local residents blamed it on campaigning and movement of people to and from from one village to another. Some others said that they must have contracted the virus from the city. 

Relatives and family members of the Yadavs | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint 
Relatives and family members of the Yadavs | Photo: Praveen Jain/ThePrint

Lack of concern, apathy from state 

The Yadav family also alleged that the district authorities have shown them no concern and that the SDM had visited only once. 

“SDM visited only once, more than a week ago in May, and told us that sanitisation will be done within two hours, but no one came from their side. An NGO came later to do it,” Kunwar said. 

“SDM ma’am came for around 5-6 minutes, apart from that no one else has come, no MLA, no MP,” said Atul Yadav. 

The current SDM Vikas Singh told ThePrint that he had only joined just a few days ago but added that the previous SDM Subhe Singh had visited the family and even got the house sanitised.

This is mentioned in the report submitted to the Lucknow DM on 18 May. On Thursday, after reporters spoke to senior government officials about the matter, SDM Vikas Singh paid a visit to the family and assured them help. “SDM noted all deaths in our family and also noted details of the children who are dependent and currently studying,” Kunwar said.

Family members and other villagers also complained that no political leadership from the ruling BJP has paid them a visit. 

Bas mediawaale aate he, aur koi nahi. Aath log phuk gaye 20 din mein inke yaha. Jaise paani se machli nikalo waise tarpe he hum. (Only the media comes here, no one else. Eight people died in 20 days. We have suffered like fish taken out of water,” Ram Pyare said. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: ‘No Hindu should return without help’ — Covid aid has no religion for these Lucknow masjids


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