Intensified patrolling, frequent announcements and monetary aid are some of the measures undertaken by the Uttar Pradesh government after reports of bodies of suspected COVID patients being dumped into the Ganga river started doing the rounds.
In a few districts of the most populous state, there were also reports of bodies being found buried in the sand on the banks of the river. To prevent people from resorting to such extremes and ensure dignified final rites to the deceased, Sanjay Rai from Shrepur village in the state's Ghazipur district, has set up firewood banks on nine cremation ghats near the river.
Rai said that he had been getting repeated calls inquiring about the dumping of bodies into the river and it disturbed him to see people's helplessness. After discussing the concern with his family members and associates, he decided to set up banks that would provide wood free of cost to the families for cremation purposes.
"We informed the district administration about the plan and... transported firewood procured from the timber merchants from various parts of the districts. On May 14, the firewood banks were launched near the nine cremation grounds," Rai said, reported Hindustan Times.
Rai, who runs a business, has spent almost ₹3 lakh to cremate as many as 60 bodies. His family and friends have pitched in for resources to carry out the initiative.
Procurement of the woods and management of the stock is being carried out by volunteers. Additionally, awareness activities are also being taken up to educate the locals on the impact of such incorrect steps which includes contamination of the river which is a source of life not just for residents but also the wildlife.
A Reuters report has said that the current crisis has not only created a shortage of beds, oxygen but also of wood for funeral pyres. People are being forced to pay exorbitant prices for the last rites of their loved ones. The report states that retail prices for firewood have gone up by at least 30 per cent in some places in Satara district of Maharashtra.