Patna: In a shocking incident in Bihar’s Buxar district, dogs, crows and vultures were seen consuming the dead bodies of alleged COVID-19 victims at the banks of river Ganga on Monday, May 10. The incident came to light when residents of the area found the bodies floating near the bank of the river and made video clips which later went viral on social media.
“It is really tragic that the people (infected by COVID-19) in rural areas are dying due to lack of oxygen, proper treatment and poor health infrastructure. We have failed to save them. But what is worse is that these bodies were thrown into the river without a funeral. They are now floating near Chausha ghat and animals were attacking the bodies,” said Harendar Tiwary, a resident of a nearby village.
Nearly 40 decomposed and half burnt bodies were reportedly found floating near Chausha ghat, creating panic among the villagers, who were scared about the infection spreading from the dead bodies. Villagers also expressed their fears about another disaster due to the bad smell of bodies all around.
However, district administration officials have claimed that these bodies are not local but may have floated down from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh. “These bodies are four to five days old that floated down the Ganga river from Uttar Pradesh and piled up at the ghat here. We have began an investigation into it,” said Buxar SDO K K Upadhayay.
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The Chausha Block Development Officer Ashok Kumar also confirmed that nearly 40 to 45 bodies have been found floating near Chausha ghat, but he, too, the SDO’s claims that these bodies have come from the neighbouring state.
He added that while some bodies were seen floating in the river water and other bodies were piled near ghat.
Both officials said that a full arrangement has been made for funerals or cremation of these bodies. “We have directed concerned officials to dispose all bodies through either burial or cremation,” Kumar said.
However, contrary to the officials’ claims, villagers have told that due to the long wait to cremate and higher cost of wood, several people are now resorting to simply throwing the bodies of those dying due to COVID-19 into the river, which is how bodies may have floated near the ghats.
According to a few of the residents, unlike normal days when hardly five to six bodies used to come for cremation at a Chausha ghat, the number of bodies have increased many fold during the ongoing second wave of the pandemic. Dozens of bodies are brought for cremation to the ghat on a daily basis, a resident told NewsClick.
The residents claim that the COVID-19 infection has spread in rural Buxar and people in hundreds of villages are suffering from symptoms of fever, cough, weakness and breathlessness. However, as there is a serious dearth of testing facilities in these parts as well as healthcare centres for treatment, the number of people dying daily has increased exponentially, which can be evinced from the dead bodies being brought for cremation, another resident of a village near Chausa ghat told NewsClick.
Anjoriya Devi, whose husband is responsible for burning dead bodies at Chausha ghat, alleged that many bodies are being regularly dumped into the river by the family members to get rid of the long waiting period for their turn to cremate. She also claimed that some families throw body into the river as they find it difficult to afford the wood for cremation, which has become more expensive.
With more than a lakh active COVID-19 cases in Bihar as on Monday, rural areas, too, have come under the grip of the pandemic this year, unlike the first wave last year. Even though reported cases are not rising, the actual situation on the ground is very different, as indicated by the incident at Buxar.
A sense of fear has been growing in rural parts of Bihar since earlier this week over the virus spreading fast as reports of more and more COVID-19 cases and deaths pour in day after day.
Due to a lack of testing facilities and basic health infrastructure in rural areas, most people with clear symptoms of COVID-19 (high fever, cough, weakness and breathlessness) are reportedly being diagnosed with typhoid or a viral flu in village after village by local self-proclaimed doctors. As such, several hundreds of COVID-19 patients have been forced to go without proper treatment. By the time they are rushed to hospitals in Patna or nearby district headquarters, their condition often deteriorates to such an extent that they cannot be saved by treatment.