A public interest litigation was filed before the Supreme Court on Thursday, seeking to set up a special investigating team to supervise the inquiry into around 100 corpses found floating in the river Ganga in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, reported ANI.

The petition filed by lawyers Pradeep Yadav and Vishal Thakre sought direction to form the special team and direct the authorities concerned to conduct autopsies of the bodies found floating in the Ganga in Bihar’s Buxar and Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur and Unnao districts. Multiple such incidents have been reported this week. Bodies were also found floating in a river in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna district.

The petitioners said that the incidents raise serious concern as the river water is the freshwater source for many people living in those areas. They said that if the bodies were infected with the coronavirus, it might spread in the villages of both states.

“The states till now have not taken any single effective step towards the purification of water, which has become contaminated due to these decomposed corpses floating in it and both the states are not fulfilling their responsibility of providing clean water to their natives and thus, violated Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the petition said.

The petition also said that the states have failed to provide facilities for burial or cremation of bodies and also failed to protect the Ganga, which “should not have been polluted by such an inhumane and indecent act either of an individual or of states itself”.

“It is clear and apparent that the person whose dead bodies floated has not died their natural death,” the petitioners claimed, reported Live Law. “The administration in order to hide/save their face from the responsibility of such inhuman act has prepared false verbatim Post mortem without actually doing the Post Mortem of dead bodies. The petitioner makes this statement very responsibly and on personal information received to the petitioner from reliable sources.”

NHRC seeks response from Centre, Bihar and UP governments

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Centre and the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on the matter and sought their response. The commission said that authorities have failed to take concentric efforts in educating the masses and checking the immersion of half-burnt or unburnt dead bodies into the river.

“The practice of disposal of dead bodies in our sacred river Ganga is clearly in violation of guidelines of the National Mission for Clean Ganga project of Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation,” it said.

The human rights body issued notices on a complaint that the bodies might be Covid-19 positive and that their disposal in such a manner can affect all the residents who are dependent on the river for their day to day activities.

The complainant further said that even if the corpses were not of coronavirus victims, such method of disposal is shameful to the society as it amounts to the violation of human rights of even deceased persons.

The Patna High Court has also taken note of the incident and sought responses from Buxur and Kaimur district commissioners.

Now, bodies found floating in Varanasi

Incidents of bodies found floating along Ganga continued as more corpses were found near Sujabad village in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi on Thursday, reported The New Indian Express. Varanasi is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency.

“There were seven bodies, many of which were partially decomposed, which were found floating near Sujabad village,” said Ved Prakash Rai, station house officer of the Ramnagar police station of Varanasi district. “All these bodies were retrieved and buried safely as per safety protocol.”

Earlier on Wednesday, multiple bodies were found buried in sand in at least two locations along the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao district.

District Magistrate Ravindra Kumar said that Buksar, one of the spots where bodies were found, is a major cremation spot for three districts of Fatehpur, Rai Bareily and Unnao. He said that while some people burn the bodies, others bury them in the sand by the river.

The incidents follow a pattern that has occurred over the last few days.

On Tuesday, unidentified bodies, suspected to be of coronavirus patients, were found floating in river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district. Locals feared the corpses will contaminate the water and lead to the spread of the infection. Later that day, a similar incident happened inMadhya Pradesh’s Panna district.

On Monday, floating bodies in Ganga in Buxar district of Bihar had caused panic among the residents. While some reports said there were around 10 to 12 bodies, others said there were 40-45 corpses. Some reports placed the number even higher, at 150 bodies.

On Sunday, several videos showed corpses, also believed to be of Covid-19 patients, floating in the Yamuna river near Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Meanwhile, by Wednesday, the count of corpses found in the eastern Uttar Pradesh district of Ballia rose to 52, while that in Bihar’s border district of Buxar was 71, according to officials quoted by News18. Bihar Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Chaitanya Prasad said that the bodies were dumped in Uttar Pradesh and had flown downstream. He said an investigation has been launched into the matter.