Hundreds of bodies have been buried in shallow mass graves along the banks of the Ganges river, as India struggles to deal with the number of dead caused by a brutal second wave of coronavirus.
In the state of Uttar Pradesh, over 2,000 partly decomposed corpses emerged on the river’s edges after being exposed by heavy rain and winds over the weekend.
Locals say the majority are Covid patients who died at home because they could not access treatment, and whose families threw them in the river because they were either too scared or could not afford to provide a proper funeral.
“We are living in horror. Dogs are devouring the bodies and dropping their bones and flesh in our residential premises. And the government is not doing anything,” a local resident told the Telegraph.
“On an average 40 bodies were brought here every day and either buried or abandoned here,” said a local in Dongri village in UP. “Covid deaths have horrified us. We don’t know who will claim or count these bodies.”
It was not possible to independently verify these claims, but the practice of dumping Covid victims’ bodies in the river has been officially acknowledged.
"The administration has information that bodies of those who have succumbed to COVID-19 or any other disease are being thrown into rivers instead of being disposed of as per proper rituals," a senior state official, Manoj Kumar Singh, said in a May 14 letter to district heads that was reviewed by Reuters.
"As a result, bodies have been recovered from rivers in many places."
The news comes as officials in the Indian state of Gujarat were accused of undercounting deaths of Covid patients by more than 61,000 since March 1.
The number of death certificates issued in the Indian state of Gujarat is nearly 25 times higher than official figures suggest, according to an opposition politician, and hundreds more shallow mass graves have been discovered.
Opposition Congress legislator in Gujarat Naushad Solanki told Daily Telegraph that he would see long queues of dead bodies at funeral sites even as official data showed “negligible” deaths.
This prompted Mr Solanki to search out official data on both Covid and non-Covid deaths, where he found major discrepancies.
“The data I have obtained reveals the official Covid fatality in Gujarat is 25 times lesser than the actual data. The undercounting of deaths is happening across India on a similar pattern,” he said.
Driven by the emergence of an insidious new variant, described as a double mutant, the second wave of Covid infections is causing around 4,000 deaths a day, overwhelming the country’s healthcare system and its funeral sites.