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We are Handling Over 100 Bodies Daily on Varanasi’s Ghats, Say Crematorium Staff

Kin blame lack of oxygen, ventilators, beds for COVID deaths.
Varansi Ghat

Representational use only.

Lucknow: Tall claims made by the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP government in Uttar Pradesh about adequate arrangement of beds with oxygen facility in hospitals were exposed on Saturday when two serious COVID-19 positive patients gasped to death in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's parliamentary constituency, Varanasi due to lack of beds.

The woman, identified as Anita Gaur, made a round of several hospitals in both Banaras Hindu University's Sir Sunderlal Hospital and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Government Hospital to get her father admitted, but to no avail. “My father could have been saved if he was given oxygen on time. It is entirely the government’s fault,” said Anita, who was still awaiting her father’s COVID-19 report.

Anita, a native of Rohnia village in Jaunpur district, 65 km from Varanasi, travelled alone with her ailing father in search of oxygen. Despite running from pillar to post she could not get oxygen, resulting in his death.

"I am not alone here, there so many like my father who has have been counting their last breath due to the lack of oxygen, bed, ventilator or ambulance. We have become the victim of a collapsed system," a distraught Anita told Newsclick, adding that hospitals are not responding to calls made by desperate patients. Many lives could be saved if the UP government could ensure timely supply of oxygen cylinders to those who are in desperate need.

Another family of Ramakant Nagar in Varanasi had a similar experience when they lost a person after several hospitals in the city denied ventilator. He developed acute hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) and was taken to many hospitals but couldn’t be saved.

Speaking on her ordeal in finding a hospital bed, the deceased’s wife said: “My husband COVID positive report came on April 10, next day his oxygen saturation level was 90. We first dialled the COVID control room to monitor his oxygen level, but could not get any response. We dialled another number but were informed that no bed was available. We came to know beds are available at Ramakrishna Mission Sevashrama Laksa but to reach there, we could not get an ambulance,” Savita said.

The family’s woes did not end here. Somehow, she managed to reach there but was denied treatment due to lack of ventilator. Her last hope was now BHU’ super speciality hospital but again they were left empty-handed and rushed to Deendayal Hospital where her husband died on the way, she claimed.

BHU STUDENT DIES

The death of 29-year old COVID-19 positive research scholar, Abhay Jaiswal,, of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) on April 14 has left his family shaken. His family claims he died after they failed to get ventilator support and the prescribed drugs.

Abhay lost his parents long back. He was a graduate in science from IIT Delhi and was doing research in Physics. “Abhay was a bright student. Recently, he returned from Paris after completing his project. He was admitted to the emergency ward at BHU after his health has deteriorated. The next day he tested positive,” Abhay’s friend told NewsClick.

Even as his condition started deteriorating and he needed ventilator support, the students alleged he was not kept with only oxygen support. “Ventilators at BHU or Deendayal Hospital are fully occupied. Being young, Abhay could have survived with ventilator support, that was not available,” one student rued.

The incident of three deaths due to lack of oxygen and ventilators in a well-known government hospital in the prime minister’s constituency belies tall claims made by the Yogi Adityanath government that all hospitals across the state have adequate oxygen supply.

Meanwhile, Varanasi-based human rights activist Lenin Raghuvanshi said the situation in Varanasi was getting worse with each passing day. Hospitals are not only denying admission to patients due to lack of beds and oxygen supply, abandoning people to die on the roads. It has exposed the government's tall claims that medical infrastructure has been created to tackle the crisis and healthcare was being provided to serious COVID positive patients in government hospitals," Lenin said.

UP GOVT HIDING DEATHS?

Bodies are piling up at Manikarnika and Harishchandra crematoria and burial grounds in Uttar Pradesh, reflecting a steep rise in COVID cases, but there seems to be an unexplained gap between the official daily death count released by the state government and the ground reality.

The Uttar Pradesh government’s COVID-19 bulletin on Saturday reported eight deaths in Varanasi but the actual number is much higher than being released by the administration, said observers.

According to Jitna Ravi, a crematorium employee at Harishchandra Ghat, there are only two electric incinerators and three platforms for wood pyres and due to huge numbers of dead bodies, the management has completely failed here.

“Before corona, around 40-50 bodies were cremated at the ghats. But after the sudden spike in COVID cases, we are handling up to 100-150 bodies daily. Most of the bodies are corona positive," Jitan told NewsClick, adding that both ghats are overflowing with dead bodies. Anybody can come and see for themselves that there is no space.

Another ghat employee on the condition of anonymity alleged that the condition in Varanasi was worse than in Lucknow but the cases were not being reported. "I came to know that the administration in Varanasi quoting single-digit number of death since Friday while in reality, we cremate more than 100 bodies by setting up more pyres every day," he said.

The family members of those who died due to COVID were seen making a beeline at ghats. They accused the district administration of overcharging them even in times of distress.

A family from Ghazipur, who had brought their uncle’s body to the ghat on Sunday morning, told reporters: “Our uncle died on Saturday and we paid Rs 20,000 for cremation as we did not have any option," Ramu, one family member, told Newsclick, that his uncle was old and had breathing problems and died due to lack of oxygen. "We did not receive the COVID report even after six days after his death. That is the level of preparation in Varanasi," he said.

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