New Delhi, 12 May: Scores of bodies are washing up on the banks of the Ganges as Indians fail to keep pace with the deaths and cremations of around 4,000 people a day from the novel coronavirus.
India currently accounts for one in three of the reported deaths from coronavirus around the world, according to a Reuters tally, and its health system is overwhelmed, despite donations of oxygen cylinders and other medical equipment from around the world.
Rural parts of India not only have more rudimentary healthcare, but are now also running short of wood for traditional Hindu cremations.
Authorities said on Tuesday they were investigating the discovery of scores of bodies found floating down the Ganges in two separate states.
“As of now it is very difficult for us to say where these dead bodies have come from,” said M P Singh, the top government official in Ghazipur district, in Uttar Pradesh.
Akhand Pratap, a local resident, said that “people are immersing bodies in the holy Ganges river instead of cremation because of shortage of cremation wood”.
Even in the capital, New Delhi, many COVID victims are abandoned by their relatives after cremation, leaving volunteers to wash the ashes, pray over them, and then take them to scatter into the river in the holy city of Haridwar, 180 km (110 miles) away.
“Our organisation collects these remains from all the crematoriums and performs the last rituals in Haridwar so that they can achieve salvation,” said Ashish Kashyap, a volunteer from the charity Shri Deodhan Sewa Samiti.