The Centre on Sunday directed authorities in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to prevent disposal of bodies in the Ganga and its tributaries following several incidents where corpses were seen floating in and dumped along these rivers. The bodies were suspected to be of patients who died of coronavirus.

Secretary of the Union Jal Shakti ministry took stock of the situation and asked the two states to focus on safe disposal and dignified cremation of the bodies. Director General of National Mission for Clean Ganga, Rajiv Ranjan Mishra said that the situation is being monitored and follow-up action is being taken in districts such as Unnao, Kanpur rural, Ghazipur and Balia in Uttar Pradesh and Buxar and Saran in Bihar, a release from the ministry stated.

In a letter to chief secretaries of the two states, they were also asked to provide financial assistance as well as regulate the rates for the cremation or burial process.

The Central Pollution Control Board was assigned the task of overall monitoring, providing guidance to the state pollution control boards and taking up advanced analysis in the matter. Meanwhile, state pollution control boards were directed to monitor the water quality more frequently in consultation with the health departments.

On being questioned on the matter, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath on Sunday claimed that in some cases, people dumped bodies into the river since the cremation grounds were crowded. He said State Disaster Response Force and Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel were deployed at water bodies in the state and panchayats and urban local bodies were alerted to see that bodies were not dumped in rivers.

He has also announced that the state government will provide Rs 5,000 to those families who cannot bear cremation costs.

Thousands of bodies dumped in rivers

Last week, horrific scenes emerged from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh as thousands of bodies were found either floating in the river or buried along the banks.

On Thursday, seven bodies were found floating in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi district. 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.

On Tuesday, unidentified bodies, suspected to be of coronavirus patients, were found floating in river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district. Later that day, a similar incident was reported from Madhya Pradesh’s Panna district.

On May 10, floating bodies in the 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. Several videos showed corpses, also believed to be of Covid-19 patients, floating in the Yamuna river near Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh the previous day on May 9.

The National Human Rights Commission on Friday released an advisory to the Union government and all the states and Union Territories, calling for a special law to uphold the dignity of the dead. A public interest litigation was also filed before the Supreme Court on Thursday, seeking to set up a special investigating team to supervise the inquiry into the matter.