Over the past many weeks, the floating bodies of suspected Covid victims in the Ganga has foxed authorities and people living downstream in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. There have also been reports of mass graves along the river, with disturbing panoramic shots of graves covered in orange shrouds against the river's white sandbanks.
Multiple videos have now emerged from Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj where municipal workers are seen pulling off yellow shrouds covering unidentified graves. A similar exercise was carried out in Unnao, too. They also removed the bamboo stumps used for separation, leaving the graves unmarked.
"They didn't get proper medical attention while they were alive. So many of them didn't even receive dignified final rites, and neither any spot in government figures. Now even Ramnamis (holy shrouds) are being taken away from their graves," Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi tweeted today, posting one such video.
While the Prayagraj administration has not said anything officially, sources told NDTV this was part of a clean-up exercise.
"The government, emaciated by worries over polishing its own image, has now come down to sinning. What kind of cleanliness drive is this? This is disrespect: of the dead, of faith, of humanity," Ms Gandhi tweeted.
Reports had earlier suggested that the dead were being disposed of in the rivers because of several reasons, including relatives' inability to afford cremations, lack of firewood, and the crematoria being overwhelmed amid the tide of deaths in the second Covid wave.
So high has been the number of deaths in the pandemic that authorities were reportedly installing nets across the Ganga river to fish out bodies washing up.
A vast number of such shallow graves have also been found near towns like Unnao, Ballia, Varanasi, and Prayagraj.
While it is difficult to zero in on any single set of numbers as far as Covid-related casualties are concerned in a state like Uttar Pradesh with its 23 crore population and 75 districts, the government claims that the figures are down significantly since April.
Yesterday, it officially reported around 3,900 new cases and 153 deaths. Unofficial reports, however, suggest these may be hugely understated.