Unnao: Weeks after several corpses were seen floating in Uttar Pradesh’s Hamirpur district, situated along the banks of the Yamuna, there are now similar scenes at the Buxar Ghat in Unnao.
When ThePrint visited the ghat Sunday afternoon, around eight bodies were found floating in the river in a span of two hours.
Residents in the area claimed a higher number. They said over 50 bodies have been seen floating in the river here since Saturday morning, and that this is only the beginning of something “terrible”.
“Hum kal se 50 se upar bodies dekh chuke hain yaha pe, pani ka level lag bhag 50 cm bhad gaye hai (We have seen over 50 bodies since yesterday; the water level has risen by around 50 cm),” said Vasudev, 52, a resident of Bighapur tehsil who comes to the ghat regularly to feed his cattle.
“Abhi ye haal hai, barish ka mausam ayega, fir kya hoga? (If this is the situation now, imagine what will happen when it rains during the monsoons),” he added.
“Ye toh bas shuruaat hai, kuch bhayanak hoga yahi chalta raha toh. Kise pata hai kaunsi Covid body he kaunsi nahi? (This is only the beginning, something terrible will happen if this continues. Who knows which body is of a Covid patient, which isn’t),” Rishi Kumar, 16, another resident who lives by the ghat, said.
Unnao District Magistrate Ravinder Kumar, however, said no bodies have been floating in the Ganga here. He told ThePrint that senior officials led by Bighapur Sub-Divisional Magistrate Daya Shankar Pathak had visited the spot Sunday noon, and submitted a report denying claims of any bodies floating in the Ganga.
“We have been informed by our team of officers that no such bodies were seen floating in the river. SDM Pathak was there with local police,” Kumar said.
SDM Pathak couldn’t be reached on his contact number.
The incident comes days after over a 100 bodies were found buried by the Ganga at Unnao. Local administration at that time was clueless as to whether these bodies are of Covid patients or not and where they have come from.
‘Bringing back dark memories’
According to the residents of the Bighapur tehsil, people who can’t afford to buy wood, often resort to burying bodies of their loved ones here and that they are buried just six feet in the ground.
This not only leads to the corpses floating on the river after the water level rises along the banks but also leads to dogs trying to dig them out and then crows looking to feed on them.
Angry villagers gathered at the ghat Sunday complaining about the lack of hygiene in the area due to these factors.
ThePrint witnessed dugout graves, kafans or saffron shrouds, and litter at the ghat.
“Yaha jaha pair rakhoge waha bodies hain. Kisi kisi mein ke upar ek bhi dafnayana geya he. (Wherever you stand, there are bodies buried below in the sand. In some, one body has been buried over the other),” said Jiyaram, who lives near the ghat.
“There was a massive surge in bodies until around 10 days ago. Even though it has decreased now, there is no place left anymore,” said Rohit Kumar, another local resident. “These floating bodies are bringing back memories of dark days when in one day we saw 150-160 corpses here for cremation. This is a testimony of the devastation caused by coronavirus in Uttar Pradesh.”
‘Ganga waters polluted’
Sushil Kumar who had come to the ghat for cremating his sister-in-law said the water of the Ganga has been polluted forever due to this.
“How will we even dip our hands in the Ganga now? Nobody knows which bodies are fresh, which are old, which are Covid positive, which aren’t? Masks are lying everywhere here,” Kumar said.
This was echoed by several others who had come to perform the last rites of their family members.
Lalta Prasad, who works at the ghat and notes down details of Covid positive bodies, said that around 12 such bodies had reached here as of Sunday evening. He told ThePrint that he submits the details to the sub-divisional magistrate.
“Itne bodies zindagi mein nahi dekha hain. Ab toh paani fir bhi kam he, bhadega tab kya hoga? Ek din mein 180 tak bodies aayi hai yaha last 2 mahino mein, koi hisab nahi kitne dafnaye gaye hain, kitne jalaye gaye he ab tak (I have never seen so many bodies in my life. What will happen when the water level rises? In one day, as many as 180 bodies have come here for last rites. There is no account for how many have been buried, how many have been cremated),” Prasad said.
Prasad added that it’s been only around 16-17 days since a particular area has been designated for Covid bodies by the district administration.
“5-6 bigha zameen abhi 13-14 May ko diya gaya hai Covid bodies ke liye alag se (Around 5-6 bighas of land here have been designated for Covid bodies since 13-14 May),” he said.
Raj Kumar, 21, who offers boat rides at the Ganga here, also said this is unprecedented. “This is the first time in my six years of life here, giving trips to people across the river, that I have seen bodies floating like this,” he said.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)