Rajat Sharma

Covid Pandemic: Why dead bodies were found floating in river Ganga

AKBIndia continues to be the world’s worst Covid affected country with Wednesday’s figure of fresh cases again crossing 3.5 lakhs at 3,62,720. Brazil comes second which reported only 25,200 fresh cases during last 24 hours. For the second consecutive day, the daily death toll in India has crossed 4,000 at 4,136 fatalities.

While the crisis has somewhat eased in metros like Mumbai and Delhi, it has become more acute in Bengaluru. There is much concern over the spread of the pandemic in rural areas of India’s great hinterland. Villages after villages in UP, MP, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are reporting fresh Covid-19 cases.

During the last 24 hours, Maharashtra reported 46,781 fresh cases and 816 deaths, Kerala reported 43,529 fresh cases and only 95 deaths, Karnataka 39,998 fresh cases and 517 deaths, Tamil Nadu 30,355 fresh cases and 293 deaths, Andhra Pradesh 21,452 fresh cases and 89 deaths, West Bengal 20,377 fresh cases and 135 deaths, Uttar Pradesh 18,125 fresh cases and 329 deaths, Rajasthan 16,384 fresh cases and 164 deaths, Gujarat 11,017 fresh cases and 102 deaths, Madhya Pradesh 8.970 fresh cases and 84 deaths and Uttarakhand 7749 and 109 deaths, among others.

Maharashtra government has announced extension of state wide lockdown till May 31. There are 13 states from where more Covid cases have been reported from rural areas compared to urban. With villagers fighting for their lives in the absence of proper infrastructure, there have been a large number of fatalities in rural areas, unreported.

The cremation grounds in rural areas of UP are working day and night, and to add to the miseries, many bodies of Covid-19 victims have been thrown into river Ganga. Several bodies were first sighted at the banks of river Ganga in Ghazipur with different versions putting the figures between 22 and 52. Twelve bodies were found on Ganga bank in Ballia, UP, while 71 floating bodies were found in river Ganga at Chausa Ghat in Buxar, neighbouring Bihar.

The district collectors of both Ghazipur and Buxar denied that these bodies belonged to local residents. Drone cameras are being deployed at the river banks. The Director General of Bihar Police said that 71 floating bodies were recovered at Buxar, and after huge nets were laid at Mahadev Ghat in Buxar on Tuesday evening, six more bodies were noticed. The Bihar police chief claimed that no new bodies have yet been found. Police in patrolling boats are appealing to people not to throw dead bodies into the river.

The UP government has posted police in all the 18 cremation grounds in Ghazipur. More than 20 teams of police and revenue department are patrolling the river banks. 23 bodies found near the Ganga bank in Ghazipur have been cremated so far. Cremation staff in Ghazipur told India TV reporter that a few days ago, the pressure was heavy with more than 90 bodies coming for cremation daily. Some of the relatives decided not to wait and immersed the bodies of their dear ones in the river Ganga. The pressure has now eased, and daily 20 to 22 cremations are taking place.

The disturbing videos of floating bodies in the river have shocked most of the people in India. They depict how people during cremation, lost their sense of humanity, and decided to immerse the bodies in the flowing river. This did not happen on a single day. The immersion of bodies in rivers took place for at least 10 to 15 days, if local villagers are to be believed. People living along the banks of Ganga have now realized the sins that their brethren have committed. Local officials are trying to create awareness among them and requesting them to cremate the bodies. The district administrations must be vigilant, because the danger is not over. The pandemic is spreading across thousands of villages.

In the midst of all these macabre happenings, more reports have come about how costly ventilators sent from the Centre under PM CARES Fund to different district hospitals are either gathering dust, or are being given on hire to private hospitals.

India TV reporter Manish Bhattacharya reported that the Bharatpur district hospital in Rajasthan had received 60 ventilators from the Centre, out of which 40 are being ‘used’ by the hospital, and 10 ventilators have been loaned on hire to a local private hospital for Rs 60,000 a month, which comes to Rs 2,000 per day. Asked why these ventilators were not being used in the district hospital, at a time when the pandemic is at its peak, the hospital officials said that there were no more oxygen points available and there was lack of staff. The officials then decided to loan these ventilators on hire to a private hospital.

The Centre sent 809 ventilators to Punjab government, but the shocking fact is that more than 150 ventilators are lying unused in the district hospitals. Some are lying in store rooms, while there is no staff to operate these ventilators in some hospitals.

India TV reporter Punit Parinja reported that 62 ventilators were lying unused in Faridkot Medical College hospital. A local AAP MLA put pictures of these unused ventilators on social media and appealed to chief minister Capt. Amrinder Singh to ensure that the ventilators are used for Covid patients. The hospital medical superintendent claimed that 90 ventilators were not working and they were now being repaired.

In Muktsar Sahib, Punjab, there are only 11 ventilators with more than 3,000 active Covid cases. These ventilators could not be used due to lack of trained staff who could operate them. The district civil surgeon said that there was not a single specialist in the district hospital who could operate these ventilators. Specialists are now being called for one or two weeks only from outside, he added.

On its part, the Centre can only procure ventilators and send them to states and from there to district hospitals. These ventilators were sent a year ago when the pandemic was in its first stage. There was one year’s time left to hire technicians and trained staff to operate these ventilators, but this was not done by the state governments.

Think about it. Forty ventilators had reached Bharatpur district hospital in July last year. Oxygen points were arranged for only 20 ventilators. More oxygen points could have been arranged in the hospital and this was not a big task. Nobody even thought about that, and these costly ventilators lay in store rooms unused for more than 10 months, while patients outside were struggling to breathe.

It is pertinent to point out here that both these cases of negligence took place in Congress-ruled states of Rajasthan and Punjab. Congress leaders, who question the operation of PM CARES Fund almost daily, should now ask their state governments, why these ventilators lay unused in hospital store rooms.

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