Was Ganga Convenient Dump For The Dead In Covid?
The sacred river Ganga became the dumping ground for the dead bodies during the 2nd wave of covid, claims the Director-General of National Mission for Clean Ganga and Head of Namami Gange Project.
According the book titled and written by him- Ganga: “Reimagining, Rejuvenating, Reconnecting”, this problem was confined to UP. Coauthored by him and Puskal Upadhyay, an IDAS officer who has worked with the NMCG, the book by Rajiv Ranjan Mishra has stirred quite a lot of controversy. A few days back, Bibek Debroy, chairman of, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, formally launched the book in the city.
Mishra is a 1987-batch Telangana-cadre IAS officer and served the NMCG in various capacities for over five years during two stints and is set to retire on December 31, 2021.
One section of the book, talks about the impact of the Pandemic in the river Ganga. Titled as “Floating Corpses: A River Defiled”, this section tells how five years of intense work to “save” the river appeared to be coming undone in days. As the pandemic spread wide and across, the number of deaths multiplied and due to overwhelming district administrations and stretching the functional limits of crematoria and burning ghats of UP and Bihar, the Ganga became an easy dumping ground for the dead.
The book also provides information about the data provided by districts to the state. As per districts, not more than 300 bodies were dumped in the river and “not the 1,000 plus reported.
Some portions of the book shared the experiences of Mishra, while he was recovering from Covid-19 at Medanta, stating “I was recuperating from a severe Covid-19 attack in the Gurugram-based Medanta, a super-speciality hospital when I heard about the unclaimed, half-burnt and swollen corpses floating in the holy Ganga in early May. Adding to the situation he writes in his book “Television channels, magazines, newspapers and social media sites were awash with macabre images and stories of bodies being dumped unceremoniously into the river. It was a traumatic and heart-breaking experience for me. As the Director General of the NMCG, my job is to be the custodian of the health of the Ganga, to rejuvenate its flow, ensure its return to its pristine purity and to ensure the same for its tributaries after years of neglect.”
At the time of the peak of 2nd wave of Covid the situation of river ganga was the worst, at that time, NMCG under Mishra asked all 59 District Ganga Committees to take “necessary action” to address the issue of floating dead bodies and submit an “action taken report”. Also, the states of Bihar and UP were asked to submit a “detailed report” on the issue. Following the instructions from NMCG, detailed data collection happened from each district regarding unidentified dead bodies or unclaimed corpses” from the Ganga and its tributaries.
As per reports from a senior UP official to the Central office, it was shared that the disposal of dead bodies in rivers was prevalent in the central and eastern regions of the state. There is also the detail of the poor covid management in all riparian states along the Ganga. “Poor management of funeral services, miscreants taking advantage of the situation to dump bodies into the river instead of cremating them, and adverse publicity from the media only added to our discomfort and helplessness,” it says.