Indians are struggling to keep pace with the rate of deaths and cremations of nearly 4,000 people a day from COVID-19. From this, there is an appalling scene of scores of bodies washing up on the banks of the sacred Ganges River.
History of the Ganges River
This is the most sacred river in Hindu culture and tradition in India. The Ganges River is the personification of the Hindu Goddess Ganga. Millions of Hindus follow certain important religious occasions that require bathing in this river. It is their belief that doing so will grant them forgiveness of their misdoings. It is also a strong belief that all Hindus must bathe in this sacred river at least once in their lifetime.
Hindus travel long distances to scatter the ashes of loved ones in the Ganges River. By doing so, they believe the reincarnation cycle ends. Hence the Ganges River plays a very significant and important role in Hinduism.
Overwhelming infections and deaths in rural areas
According to data from a Reuters tally, India currently accounts for one in three reported deaths around the world from the coronavirus. Despite receiving donations of oxygen cylinders and other vital medical equipment from other countries, its health system is still overwhelmed.
Only very basic healthcare is available in rural parts of India. To make matters worse, these areas are now also running short of wood for traditional Hindu cremations.
On Tuesday, authorities said the discovery of scores of bodies found floating down the Ganges in two separate states are currently under investigation.
M P Singh, a senior government official in Ghazipur district, in Uttar Pradesh, said “As of now it is very difficult for us to say where these dead bodies have come from.”
“People are immersing bodies in the holy Ganges river instead of cremation because of shortage of cremation wood” according to Akhand Pratap, a local resident.
After cremation, ashes of many bodies of COVID victims are abandoned by their relatives, even in the capital, New Delhi. Volunteers wash the ashes and pray over them. They then take the ashes to scatter into the river in the holy city of Haridwar, 180km away.
Ashish Kashyap is a volunteer from the charity organization, Shri Deodhan Sewa Samiti. She said “Our organisation collects these remains from all the crematoriums and performs the last rituals in Haridwar so that they can achieve salvation.”
The daily infections
According to the health ministry, the seven-day average of daily infections hit a record 390,995 on Tuesday, with 3,876 deaths.
Official COVID-19 deaths are believed to stand at just under a quarter of a million. Many experts say the number is almost certainly under-reported.
The coronavirus variant was first identified in India last year. On Monday, the World Health Organization said the Indian variant is a variant of global concern. Some preliminary studies are showing that this variant spreads more easily.
Oxygen tankers delayed
In the government SVR Ruia hospital in the southern city of Tirupati, 11 people died on Monday. Their deaths were due to a delay of a tanker carrying vital supplies of oxygen.
M Harinarayan, the district’s senior civil servant, explained that “There were issues with oxygen pressure due to low availability. It all happened within a span of five minutes.”
The Maharashtra state around the financial centre of Mumbai, and Indian capital, Delhi, are running short of vaccines as well. These are two of the hardest-hit areas in India.
Rajesh Tope, Maharashtra health minister, told reporters “We are ready to buy doses, but they are not available right now.”
There are increasing calls for a nationwide lockdown due to India’s second wave of the pandemic. More states are imposing tougher restrictions that have hurt many businesses as well as the overall Indian economy.
A Foxconn factory in the southern state of Tamil Naidu produces the Apple iPhone 12. There is more than a 50 percent drop in production, as many of the workforce have contracted COVID-19.
12th May 2021 23:00
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