Uttar Pradesh man hands out free firewood to prevent dumping of bodies in Ganga

50-years old Sanjay Rai, a native of Sherpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district, has set up firewood depots at the cremation grounds on the bank of river Ganga to help poor people perform the last rites of their kin, instead of dumping the bodies in the river
Ghazipur man Sanjay Rai has launched firewood banks at cremation grounds near Ganga in Ghazipur of Uttar Pradesh. (HT Photo)
Ghazipur man Sanjay Rai has launched firewood banks at cremation grounds near Ganga in Ghazipur of Uttar Pradesh. (HT Photo)
Updated on May 17, 2021 11:20 AM IST
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50-years old Sanjay Rai, a native of Sherpur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district, has set up firewood depots at the cremation grounds on the bank of river Ganga to help poor people perform the last rites of their kin, instead of dumping the bodies in the river. Dozens of bodies of suspected Covid-19 patients have washed up on the banks of river Ganga in Ghazipur over the past few days, triggering concerns over possible river water contamination leading to further spread of the contagion.

Rai, who runs a business in Gujarat, was in his village in Ghazipur when incidents of villagers dumping bodies in Ganga surfaced with disturbing videos and images getting flashed across media platforms.

“People from various parts of the country called me to know the facts. The dumping of bodies as well as floating corpses in the river seemed disgraceful,” Rai said.

He discussed the issue with his associates and family members and decided to launch a firewood bank on the nine cremation ‘ghats’ located near the river. “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.

The poor people are being given wood for the last rites from the bank for free and volunteers are busy maintaining the stock at all the nine depots. “Along with assisting the needy, we are also working to protect the Ganga from pollution,” Rai said.

On an average, 5,000 is spent on firewood for a single pyre. Rai has so far spent close to 3 lakh to cremate 60 bodies. He has been helped by family and friends in generating resources for the noble cause.

The district administration says it has started an awareness campaign while the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) is conducting patrols to dissuade villagers from dumping the bodies in the river. The newly-elected gram pradhans have been asked to reach out to district administration for assistance for the last rites if needed. They say Rai’s initiative has also made a difference.

Ghazipur district magistrate Mangala Prasad Singh acknowledged Rai’s contribution in solving the problem. “His organization is also creating awareness among the villagers urging them not to dump the dead bodies in the river,” Singh said.

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Thursday, December 02, 2021