Covid pandemic and dance of death in UP and Bihar


Dead bodies have washed up at Buxar in Bihar even as villagers in eastern UP are busy worshipping ‘Corona Mai’ and ‘Deeh baba’ to get rid of the virus

Dr Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in USA, believes the death toll in India due to Covid is much higher than the official figure of 2.5 lakhs so far.

His logic is simple. Before the pandemic, 27 thousand Indians would die every day either due to natural causes or in accidents, he points out. But if the government’s claim of a daily Covid death toll of four thousand is added to that figure, the crematoriums and burial grounds would not have been stretched and worked non-stop. He estimates the death toll to be five times as high as the official figure.

He has offered another argument. If even one villager has died of Covid in each of the six lakh villages in the country, the number would still be almost three times the official death toll.

Dr Jha’s apprehension has been borne out by a hundred dead bodies washing up at Buxar in Bihar. Villagers in UP, it was suspected, had dumped the bodies in the river, either because crematoriums did not entertain them or because they had run out of money for cremation. Dumping bodies in the river was the fastest and the cheapest way of getting rid of dead bodies in the countryside and the misplaced fear, not countered by the government, that even dead bodies are contagious might also have prompted the hurried disposal.

The head of Chiraigaon block in Uttar Pradesh, Sudhir Singh Pappu, also corroborates Dr Jha’s fear. “Five to ten people have died in each of the 110 villages in the Block in the previous 10 days,” he claimed early this week. Such anecdotal evidence is available from the villages in Bihar as well. A resident of Sahadani village close to Muzaffarpur claimed that every household had members suffering from cold and fever (Covid pneumonia?) but are relying on home remedy.

While people in Bihar concede that wedding feasts and festivities might have taken a toll, in eastern Uttar Pradesh panchayat polls are clearly the culprit. From the Prime Minister’s constituency in Varanasi to the UP chief minister’s constituency Gorakhpur, most villages have reported five to fifteen deaths in the first 10 days of May.

Conditions are similar in Western UP. In Bijnor Vijay Singh Pehalwan says people started falling ill after the last phase of election held on April 19. Digambar Singh, the young state president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), informs that farmer leader Vijay Singh died of Covid in his village. There is no household that does not have a patient.

President of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Dehradun, Dr. Amit Singh confirms that the effects of the Kumbh Mela are now visible along the 100-Km stretch between Ramnagar near Jim Corbett national park to Chakhutia and Masi towns of Almora.

Last year, ironically, villagers in both Bihar and UP had forced migrant workers returning from the cities to quarantine themselves outside the villages. Medical camps were set up for them and a doctor would attend the camp every day. Migrant workers were then allowed to enter villages only after they tested negative.

This time no tests are being done. Nobody from the health department has bothered to visit. There is neither medicine nor oxygen in hospitals or for that matter the testing kits. People have been left to fend for themselves.

(With inputs from Kumar Santosh, Ram Shiromani Shukla, Anil Kumar, Krishna Singh)


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