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Centre directs States to prevent dumping of dead bodies in Ganga
New Delhi, May 16, 2021
The Centre has directed the States to stop the dumping of dead bodies, suspected to be those of COVID-19 victims, in the Ganga and other rivers and ensure their safe disposal by providing support for dignified cremation on a war footing.
"The country is facing an extraordinary situation wherein a number of COVID-19 cases and consequential deaths have been on the rise in many States and Union Territories (UTs) in the recent past.
"Dumping of dead bodies/ partially burnt or decomposed corpses in the river Ganga and its tributaries have recently been reported. This is most undesirable and alarming," an official press release said.
Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Pankaj Kumar, reviewed the position and the action taken in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The States apprised the Secretary of the latest position and further action points were decided, the release said.
The Secretary highlighted the instructions already given and wanted expeditious action and also underscored the need to give equal attention to such incidents in urban as well as rural areas along the Ganga and other rivers.
"Stopping of dumping of dead bodies as well as their safe disposal and protection of water quality has to be attended to on war footing," he said.
Kumar said that after knowing the progress from states, the Central Water Commission (CWC), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Boards would also be giving their feedback and action plans.
Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga stated that the situation is being followed up with several districts like Unnao, Kanpur rural, Ghazipur, Balia in Uttar Pradesh and Buxar and Saran in Bihar. However, some cases are also reported from other districts as well.
He asked the state missions to follow up action taken with all districts. He said that there is need to strengthen enforcement, maintain vigil and also take proactive action to facilitate and support the families for cremation of dead bodies and asked state missions to specifically report on this. If needed, Project Directors can assess and also give support to District Ganga Committees for this out of NMCG funds available with them while keeping NMCG informed.
Uttar Pradesh was represented by Rajnish Dubey, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development and Anurag Shrivastava, Principal Secretary, Jal Shakti, Government of Uttar Pradesh and Project Director, State Ganga Mission.
Shrivastava said that all the district magistrates in the states have been alerted about the issue and NMCG’s instructions have been shared. These district magistrates are getting patrolling carried out to prevent dumping of dead bodies in Ganga.
He also said that 13 crematoriums under Namami Gange in addition to existing ones are made available for cremation of dead bodies. It was informed that orders have been issued for financial support in urban areas.
Dubey said that similar orders for financial support of Rs 5000 have also been issued by Panchayati Raj Department for rural areas, similar to urban areas, and SDRF and other forces have also been asked to do patrolling. Authorities are in touch with Panchayats and ULBs.
Anand Kishore, Principal Secretary, Urban Development and Project Director, State Ganga Mission, Government of Bihar said that the state has decided that cremation or burial of people dying due to COVID-19 and in such situations, will be borne by the Bihar government. He added that even if the deceased did not have "positive" report of infection and had shown coronavirus symptoms the family will be offered this support.
He also said that patrolling is being done to prevent further dumping of dead bodies in the river, especially in sensitive districts like Buxar and Saran (Chhapra). A mahajaal is being used at Buxar to locate and take out dead bodies. He was asked to keep vigil on bridges and other vulnerable areas including districts down stream.
S K Halder, Chairman, Central Water Commission informed the meeting that they are monitoring flow and water quality through their stations and will further increase frequency.
Prashant Gargava, Member Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board apprised the meeting that the board has forewarned all water monitoring stations along Ganga and her tributaries. The periodicity of testing water quality has also been increased. D P Mathuria, ED, Technical, NMCG gave further details and would be coordinating with CWC and CPCB.
Debashree Mukherjee, Addl. Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti, stated that, besides urgent assessment of the risks imposed to the river-side communities by the PCBs, there is need for spreading awareness with the riverside communities on dos/ don’ts for the use of river water and to prevent such incidents of dumping of bodies in the river.
Taking note of the above status and action taken so far, it was further decided that along with action to prevent dumping of dead bodies in river, burying of dead bodies in sand along the river must also be prevented.
The meeting felt that a suitable awareness generation programme needs to be taken up against the ill effects of such practices.
State Pollution Control Boards were directed to improve and make more frequent water quality monitoring in consultations with the health department. The CPCB was assigned the task of overall monitoring and giving guidance to state pollution control boards and to take up advanced analysis in the matter.
Support for cremation needs to be given top priority for safe and dignified cremation. Effective implementation of the Government orders needs to be ensured and no loss of time should take place in implementation, the meeting felt.
Earlier this week, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), Ministry of Jal Shakti, taking serious note, took steps to alert district administrations and state governments. A direction and advisory was issued by DG, NMCG to District Magistrates who are also the chairperson of the District Ganga Committees on May 11, followed up by a letter dated May 12 to the Chief Secretaries of the States, to work towards prevention of dumping of dead bodies in the river and improve enforcement of the government guidelines on cremation of COVID-19-infected people.
The letter also advised the States to support cremation, provide financial assistance as well as regulate the rates of the cremation/burial process and materials.