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‘Dead bodies all over’: Lucknow funerals tell a story starkly different from UP govt’s claims

On 15 April, Yogi govt's health bulletin said UP recorded 104 Covid deaths in 24 hrs. But Lucknow alone saw 108 funerals that day, and this is just at crematoriums & not cemeteries.

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Lucknow:Humne (kabhie) itni dead bodies to dekhi hi nahin hai… wo ghat par platform bane hain, woh khali pade rahte the, (par) aaj pair rakhne ki jagah nahin hai, charon aur lashein hi lashein.”

Amar Singh, 29, who works at Lucknow’s Mukti Dham cremation ground, had never seen “so many dead bodies”. The raised platform on the premises for funerals that would earlier see few pyres has no place for any one to even stand now, he said, adding: “It’s dead bodies all over.”

On Thursday, when this reporter reached Mukti Dham around 6 pm, four young men were stacking up logs of wood on one side of the ghat to prepare a row of funeral pyres for the next round of Covid cremations. They were not wearing proper PPE suits. Over 30 pyres were already burning, and more bodies were waiting to be consigned to flames.

Among the bodies due for last rites was that of Manoj. The man in his late 40s had only complained of “fever and body ache” before he died, his relative said. “We took him to every hospital we could reach, but he died,” said the relative, one among the hundreds present at the ghat to say final goodbyes to their loved ones.

He didn’t know if Manoj had Covid, for the latter died before a test could be done.

Jo jinda hain, unke test ke result to aa nahin rahe, dead ka kahan se test karaate (Test results of those alive are not coming on time, where is the question of the dead being tested),” the relative said.

Manoj was cremated on a pyre meant for non-Covid bodies.

The team of young men at Mukti Dham preparing pyres for people who have died due to Covid-19 | Photo: Jyoti Yadav | ThePrint
The team of young men at Mukti Dham preparing pyres for people who have died due to Covid-19 | Photo: Jyoti Yadav | ThePrint

Additional Health Secretary Amit Mohan Prasad and Lucknow District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash did not respond to ThePrint’s phone calls and messages for comments, but many government officials, requesting anonymity, said the number of deaths has risen. They also said there is “lack of medical attention on time” because of which people are dying, and that not all patients are being tested so it can’t be said for sure that all “non-Covid” funerals at crematoria are actually.

While the crematoria were following protocols at the sections where Covid funerals were taking place, with corporation officials conducting inspection throughout the day and workers sanitising the area from time to time, the non-Covid sections appeared to be casual, with people there less bothered about protection and sanitisation and more concerned about their number in the queue.

And this is only the scene at the city’s cremation grounds. Lucknow also has two major Christian cemeteries and nearly 100 big and small Muslim burial grounds, and the situation there is not much different.

Also read: Many deaths, not enough hearses: Raipur’s Covid toll sees hospitals truck bodies to funerals

Crematoria are full, data mismatch

The ground reality at Mukti Dham and Baikunth Dham, the two crematoria authorised for Covid funerals, is in stark contrast to the UP government’s health data. On 15 April, the Yogi Adityanath government’s health bulletin said the state recorded 104 Covid deaths in the last 24 hours, with Lucknow accounting for 26 of them.

However, the data accessed by ThePrint from the crematoria tells a completely different story.

Until 6 pm on 15 April, the two crematoria had reported 108 Covid bodies — 80 at Baikunth Dham and 28 were at Mukti Dham.

A day before, on 14 April, the number of Covid bodies cremated at the two grounds was 101 against the government data of only 14.

Pyres kept ready in advance for bodies with Covid-19 | Photo: Jyoti Yadav | ThePrint
Pyres kept ready in advance for bodies with Covid-19 | Photo: Jyoti Yadav | ThePrint

On 13 April, as many as 84 Covid bodies were cremated in Lucknow but government data said only 18 such deaths occurred. The corresponding figures for 12 April were 92 and 21, respectively.

Graveyards in the city also claimed that the numbers have gone up.

Aishbagh Kabristan, one of the biggest burial grounds in Lucknow, has seen over 350 bodies since 1 April, and staff working there said the numbers have “tripled since last month”.

Sharing the figures, a member of the committee that manages the functioning of the graveyard said they did not receive too many Covid bodies in February and March but have buried 22 such bodies since 1 April, but what is more alarming is the high number of “non-Covid bodies” that they have been getting for the last few days.

Aishbagh Kabristan was crowded when ThePrint visited the place Friday afternoon, with a long queue of people still waiting for their turn to bury their dead family members or acquaintances.

The crowd at a burial ground in Lucknow | Photo: Jyoti Yadav | ThePrint
The crowd at a burial ground in Lucknow | Photo: Jyoti Yadav | ThePrint

According to the Thursday health bulletin, UP has 1,29,848 active Covid cases. Capital Lucknow continues to be the worst hit in state as the tally reached 35,865 Thursday, with 5,183 fresh cases reported in last 24 hours.

ThePrint tried to reach Additional Health Secretary Amit Mohan Prasad and Lucknow District Magistrate Abhishek Prakash through phone calls and messages for comments on the data mismatch on deaths but they did not respond.

Municipal Commissioner Ajay Dwivedi said, “The authorities concerned will be able to comment on the data, we are (only) monitoring the cremation of Covid dead bodies.”

An official from the Lucknow Nagar Nigam told ThePrint, on the condition of anonymity: “Ever since the viral video of the DM [Abhishek Prakash] saying people are dying on roads went viral, he has become silent. All the public outrage is now directed towards (Lucknow Municipal Commissioner) Ajay Dwivedi, who is assigned the duty of monitoring Covid cremations.”

He added: “We are already running out of funds. On top of that, we have to spend Rs 8-10 lakh every day for pyre wood. We are ordering 5 quintal wood every day.”

A body every 10 minutes, non-Covid deaths jump 2.5 times

Not only Covid bodies, the cremation grounds are also witnessing an overwhelming number of bodies in general, according to the staff. ThePrint spent a few hours each at both the ghats and saw a new body arriving every 10 minutes.

One of the employees at the Baikunth Dham told ThePrint: “We are overworked. After Holi, the numbers started increasing. I had not taken a holiday since last year. But just as I thought of taking one, almost 60-65 bodies started coming in every day.”

Pointing towards his injured leg, he said: “I met with an accident, but I cannot rest. These are not ordinary numbers. Some people had to wait for 5-6 hours to cremate the bodies they brought. Earlier, the average number was 20-25 a day. Last one week saw a massive surge in the non-Covid bodies too.”

And no one knows if these were Covid-infected bodies.

A senior official from the corporation, who did not wish to be named, explained: “Even we are shocked to see these figures. We aren’t releasing them (the numbers) to the media but it is not an ordinary situation. Many of them (patients) are complaining of pneumonia. Some of them did not get an ambulance, some were turned away by the hospitals. They died because of lack of medical care. The numbers have jumped 2.5 times higher. Their tests are not being conducted, so we don’t know if they were infected with the virus or not.”

Also read: Covid patients’ bodies pile up at Lucknow crematoriums as staff is ‘scared’ or visiting Kumbh


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  1. I am a huge fan of the print; This is why it is disappointing to see that the print has hopped on to the “Government is hiding Covid deaths” bandwagon. Here are the facts: About 24 people per million die in India per day- about 7,500 per million or 7.5 per 1000. Leading causes of death can be easily confused with Covid deaths. In India a dead body must be disposed off within hours: of death. Authorities will insist on Covid protocol cremations for numerous deaths which are not in fact Covid deaths. For example: Tuberculosis or non-covid pneumonia is much more likely to be the cause of death of an under 18 person. Chance of Covid death under 18 is 0.02% among those who get infected. Heart disease patients in India who should be having a bypass are often treated only for symptoms such as breathlessness. When a heart patient dies, his death may be labelled a Covid death. Covid protocol funerals will exceed covid deaths by a factor of 8 to even 20 times. non-Covid infectious diseases killed more than 700,000 Indians over the age of 5 in 2019. In December and January, I saw many Whatsapp messages and news articles claiming that Covid had collapsed in India, because the official statistics were wrong, and more than 50% of Indians were already infected. This turned out to be completely false. Per ICMR random sample study, Only 20% of Indians over the age of 18, had evidence of past Covid infections, leaving 80% exposed. This false claim led to a feeling of invincibility, which seemingly worked until it stopped working. My feeling is that official statistics are undercounting the Covid deaths, the actual Covid death toll is 50 to 75% higher- but this is true in every country in the world. Government should use RT-PCR on a random sample of the dead bodies, and just tell people that Covid protocol cremations are not the same as Covid deaths. India has already suffered due to skepticism about official statistics. Don’t fan the flames of disnformation.

  2. So as per the author all deaths = covid deaths! UP is a big state, at any point of time there will be many deaths, just a fraction of them will be of covid. Trust data, not conspiracy theories. Don’t become like Pakistanis, bereft of any logic.

    • read the whole thing……or don’t comment
      or i guess you are a hardliner pakistani without any logic

  3. no issues, the Govt has ensured adequate electricity and firewood for cermetoriums , it is a strong geovernment in powwer, not a weak government under the leadership of an Italian lady

  4. No problem, don’t lose focus, Yogiji will take care, right now all that matters is one thing and we need to keep at it till we win…..the Bengal election

    • well what else can we expect. except for very few states nobody is properly testing(in order to hide covid positive numbers) so that we can seena thook and shout our victory.

  5. What a shame to lie about death. But authorities every where lie on all matters of interest to them. UP wants low death rate during Kumb. Even in the US, every one graduates from High School. If you attend school, you graduate. No grades are needed or involved. Just the time in school. The students drop out themselves but relatively that is a small number. What is astonishing is that there is no query from anywhere. Just a given fact. Of these who “graduate” only one in four go on further to college. Since high school grads are productively employed, there is no noise. Now the salary differential over the life time is dawning on the non college graduates but it is too late to change. Habit to lie will not change. It is not a party issue. It is a authority issue.

  6. This is not an uncontested space, true, but one regards Shri Ajay Bisht as the worst CM in the country. More consequential since he serves / governs 200 million Indians. Have not understood the rationale either for his selection or his continuance. Each occupant of high constitutional office starts on a clean slate, the popular mandate entitling him to be given a fair chance to prove his detractors wrong. There have been serial missteps. For me, the tragedy of infants and children dying for want of oxygen and medicines in the Gorakhpur government hospital, early in his term, and the cover up which followed was confirmation of my fears / bias. More recently, tin sheets are being erected to obscure the sight of Covid cremations taking place. Like the brick walls we hastily build to obscure the reality of India from foreign dignitaries. I fully expect him to return to power next year.

    • Yogi is Hindutva’s next mascot, they want him as PM. In Yogiland, the doctor who saved some children in the Japanese encephalatis case was arrested because Yogi did not like the doctor being praised by media (that he was Muslim made it too bad).

      The way things are going, India will be the topper in the Covid world rankings, and everyone will put us on a red list. The videos of the Kumb have been broadcast worldwide, and people can see it is suicidal irresponsibility. So much for being vishwa guru.

      India is trapped by the Hindutva web, it is struggling for life and cannot extricate itself. At some stage, Hindutva was going to get trapped in its own contradictions and misfit with reality.

    • Thank god you are finally showing showing your true colors. Stick to who you are and what you believe in. By the way the rant you wrote above was not worth a read, so i didn’t really read it. However i do agree with the very last concluding line. Yogi Adityanath will indeed win, and pierce the souls of commies. And again by the way, i am alluding to the 2029 lok sabha elections. The UP election is but a given.

    • Mr Ashok: I fully agree with what you write.

      As you rightly point out, Ajay Bisht is arguably the worst CM in the country. Although, in his defence, one might say that unlike CM Narendra Modi of Gujarat in 2002, he did not organise a pogrom to kill Muslims. At least, not yet. Until now, Bisht’s incompetence has only manifested itself in the deaths of infants in Gorakhpur hospitals, his rank incompetence as an administrator and his prioritising of the lives of cows over his constituents. His hatred of Muslims has not yet resulted in pogroms but only violence on a much smaller scale. The lynchings of Muslims, the dehumanisation of Muslims, the odd hate speech here and there, they have so far been the extent to which this saffron thug has stooped. But he surely is capable of more violence and is a dangerous demagogue. A UP version of a Modi if you will.

      But what is really worrying is that Ayothollah Bisht is very likely to replace Modi as PM. He is younger, appeals to his virulent Hindutva base as he has potential for more violence towards Muslims, has a paramilitary organisation Hindu Yuva Vahini to spread his message and is generally what the itchy testicled, illiterate BIMARU voters want. As long as they get Hindutva and they can lynch Muslims, they don’t care for “roti, kapda aur makaan”. The mass radicalisation of the North Indian populace is complete – religion is the sole criterion on which a politician is judged. And Bisht delivers Hindutva in large dollops.

      As the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger said:

      “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful”

      Surely applies to North India.

      • There is a video of Karan Thapar’s interview of Tavleen Singh. She said she decided to go to Gorakhpur to see what was so special about Yogi that he got elected 5 times. She said it is the worst, undeveloped place in India.

        With Hindutva embedded in the mind, people feel it difficult to accept Hindutva is taking them nowhere. This state of mind is a symbol of India’s failure. But it is our duty to get this message out so that some of the brain dead will recover their senses.

      • I think you are generalising on North Indians and Gujaratis too much. Not more than 50% vote for BJP and maybe 60% in Gujarat but still that leaves substantial number don’t vote for bjp. Being an educated man living abroad, you should not resort to generalisation.

        ps – I am not a fan of the bjp.

      • Were you there in any meetin in Harvard university when they praised Bisht? Share the article if there is any of specific news on this or better to keep your mouth shut.

    • Good points, but this is India and still arguably one of India’s poorer states. There may be some truth in the cover-up of the oxygen non-availability and infant mass deaths in a government hospital, but does that directly point to government and CM culpability? Democracy and UP citizens will decide who will become UP CM, maybe repeatedly, the non-democratic, authoritarian alternatives all around us are a thousand times worse. Easy to just mouth platitudes about Hindutva as if that is equivalent to Islamism and militant Christianity, but Hindutva is not responsible for the suffering and genocide of millions over centuries. It’s the time for nationalism and some pride in ourselves, notwithstanding the problems that we have, as Indians. Those problems are essentially miniscule in comparison anyway.

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