Over 100 corpses that surfaced three days ago in river Ganga near Periyar Ghat in Unnao could be the unclaimed bodies that state police dumped in the river after autopsy.
More than 100 dead bodies, in various stages of decomposition, were seen floating in the river in Unnao and 10 bodies in river Betwa in Jhansi in the three two days. While the local administration of Unnao and Jhansi are claiming that the bodies could be of people who, according to Hindu tenets, are either buried along the river banks instead of being cremated or immersed in the river, environmentalists and locals claim that the corpses could very well be the unidentified bodies that police used to dispose off by throwing them into the river.
According to sources, the corpses, tied in white cloth, that were retrieved from the river had clothes on, for example, shirt and trousers or saree. In case of religious cremation, naked body of the deceased is covered in white cloth before immersing it into the river.
According to Rajan Kashyap, a boatman near Sisamau nalla near Bhaironghat in Kanpur, police often dumps as many as 60-70 unclaimed bodies at a time from Shuklaganj bridge or Jajmau bridge. Kashyap and his fellow boatmen have often seen police vehicle on the bridges dropping bodies in the middle of the night into the river. Vijay Kumar, a local fisherman, near Parmat ghat, Kanpur, also confirmed that police dumps unclaimed bodies from not only the two bridges but also from Ganga barrage in Kanpur. Because of the water current, the bodies could have piled up near Unnao.
Rakesh Jaiswal, chairman of Kanpur-based non-profit Eco-Friends, says that way back in 1997, his team had done a Clean Ganga Campaign and in a span of two days, they had fished out about 180 bodies from the 10km stretch of Ganga in Kanpur. On doing to a survey to ascertain reasons for so many bodies floating in the river, they found that one of the major reasons was police officials dumping unclaimed bodies in the river after autopsy.
The non-profit filed a public interest litigation in Allahabad High Court in 1997 which led to several directions issued by the court including complete ban on the practice of dumping bodies in Ganga by police, formation of high level committee to check on the issue of dumping bodies in the river, augmentation of river police force and the court also made the SP and the SSP responsible for fishing out bodies from the Ganga and cremating them.
“However, due to lack of awareness police in several other regions such as Kannauj and Farukhabad and other cities downstream continue to violate the court orders. Even if they had not dumped the bodies, it was the duty of the police in various places the river flows through to retrieve the body and cremate them,” he said.
In 1998, the court ordered all state-sponsored crematoria to standardaize the cost of cremation to Rs 500 per dead body to cover operating costs at the crematoria and allow any unclaimed bodies to be cremated at no charge.
Since, several cities along the bank of Ganga in Uttar Pradesh do not have electric crematorium and wood cremation is expensive, the amount earmarked for each unclaimed body (for wood cremation), according to a state government directive dated May 8, 2013, was increased from Rs 1500 to Rs 2700. The amount included a body bag, cremation cloth, transportation of the body to crematorium etc, says Deputy SP, Allahabad, Asutosh Mishra.
According to sources, several police officers dump bodies into Ganga to save themselves of the hassles of proper cremation and also to pocket the amount earmarked for the bodies. Sources also said that last evening, district administration made residents of Periyar village, near the bodies had piled up due to low water level, a declaration which stated that they have a practice of immersing bodies into the river.
On being asked about this whether the allegation that police dumps bodies into the river was true, Additional SP (Unnao), Ram Krishna Yadav disconnected the phone and calls to his phone later remained unanswered.
Commanding Officer (Safipur), RK Singh, said that he was busy in a political meeting.