LUCKNOW/KANPUR: A study by scientists of Council for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) has said that there was no presence of Coronavirus in any water sample collected during the second Covid wave from Ganga river locations in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The 120-page study, accessed by the The New Indian, says that water samples were collected from the 13 locations of Ganga river and were analysed for the same RT-PCR testing as done on humans for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus.
“Of total of 132 samples (378 sample triplicates/ 1134 technical triplicates) analyzed, none of the sample was found positive for presence of SARS CoV-2 virus,” the report has said in its conclusion.
The Ganga river locations included Kannauj, Unnao, Kanpur, Prayagraj, Mirzapur, Varanasi, Buxar, Hamirpur, Ghazipur, Ballia, Patna, Saran and Bhojpur.
The study assumes significance as it comes months after several Western media outlets had attributed the deaths in UP and Bihar near Ganga river due to COVID. The reporting had triggered outrage as Opposition parties had accused Yogi government of hiding COVID-related deaths.
“It’s now very clear that there was no COVID virus present in the Ganga river. Our report is based on adequate number of sample size as well as rigorous scientific procedure. The SOP was the same that we have used for more than 3.5 lakh samples which we tested for humans for RT PCR for any presence of Coronavirus. But the result is that there was no Coronavirus in the water at all,” S K Barik, director, CSIR-IITR told the New Indian.
The study’s sole objective was detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus contamination due to disposal of dead bodies in river Ganga, the report says.
“The sampling was done using RTPCR test just like we do on humans. We did all sampling from sites in water close to dead bodies. Nowhere we found the Coronavirus. All samples tested negative,” Barik pointed out.
The sampling by the CSIR-IITR was done in May and then again June this year during the second COVID wave, the report says.
“Different parts of Ganga river between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were analysed. In the middle of river, bank of the river and so on,” Barik added.
The report has now raised questions in Uttar Pradesh with many in the UP government and BJP asking if international media outlets tried to defame India as a country and create a bad name in the world over dumping of bodies in water by blaming COVID as the reason for deaths.
“Was there a plot to inflame passions and create disturbance as India was battling the wave? They were all part of Congress toolkit gang led by Rahul Gandhi who stirred a row. First they questioned the lockdown, then the batted for lockdown. Then parties like Samajwadi Party asked people not to vaccinate, calling it a BJP vaccine. The attempt over dead bodies and showing corpses and filming them was to create fear psychosis and defame the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh as the state is going for 2022 polls. This was not seen in Maharashtra or Kerala or Rajasthan which saw more deaths than UP. That’s what we need to ask ourselves and the Western media outlets and the Opposition parties, shouldn’t we?,” asked UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi.
The study also though agrees that disposal of bodies took place but it makes no claim that whether those people died of COVID as there is no evidence to support this claim.
“Dead bodies being buried along the banks and floating in river Ganga has been reported in major cities with the fear of spreading SARS-CoV-2. Keeping in view of this alarming situation, various authorities such as NMCG, CPCB, SPCB and specialized virology testing institutes joined hands and initiated the-investigation of SARS Cov-2 virus contamination and analysis of water quality due to disposal of dead bodies in river Ganga.The investigation concluded that in each sampling sites the water quality was found to deviate from the standard norms. However, the overall water quality was not affected. The analysis report also shows that SARS- CoV-2 was not detected in any of the sites. Thus, it can be concluded that disposal of bodies did not largely affect the water quality of river Ganga though few of the parameters deviated from the standard norms which may be due to other anthropogenic activities,” the study remarks.
The site visits for the study were assisted by officials of UP state pollution board, Bihar state pollution board and several scientists. The study has been authored by IITR’s Dr Preeti Chaturvedi, senior scientist, environment toxicology; Dr Aditya Bhushan Pant, senior principal scientist, and DR K C Khulbe, chief scientist.
Congress and SP in Uttar Pradesh disagreed with the study by scientists, saying everybody saw that deaths took place only due to COVID and those bodies were of COVID positive patients only
“The incidents were widely reported and covered by several. Those living by the Ganga too had faced problems,” said Surendra Rajput, Congress national spokesperson based out of Lucknow.
He however did not question the authenticity of CSIR-IIITR study that has denied any presence of Coronavirus in water samples.
Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari however hit out at scientists and government,
“It’s a case of mad government, mad scientists and mad theories,” he said.
BJP slammed both Congress and SP.
“The Congress and SP have an issue with the handling of Yogi government’s vaccination programme. The maximum doses of COVID vaccines administered in the country are by UP, followed by Maharashtra. The country crossed 100-crore vaccination doses. While both Congress and SP promoted vaccine hesitancy by asking people not to vaccinate. The study is done by learned independent scientists across the country,” said Tripathi.
Political analyst and senior scientist Prof Anand Ranganathan said that he wishes government had conducted COVID testing for dead bodies to bust the propaganda of Western media.
“I completely endorse this study that there was no COVID trace present in water bodies even though it does not still confirm whether those people died of COVID or not. But the study exposes the entire propaganda run by several in the country and outside to hinder India’s ability to counter Coronavirus and challenge by indigenous vaccination programme,” said Prof Ranganathan, special centre for molecular medicine, Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi.
The team of the New Indian then spread across various locations of Ganga river across Uttar Pradesh to know whether those death were COVID-related or was it traditional ritual of Jal Pravah. There was a mixed response.
“Those bodies came from elsewhere. If they were from Baxar in Uttar Pradesh, I would have got to know,” said one Madan Gopal in Kanpur.
“There were many bodies which were buried during COVID second wave. There were even dogs who came and tore into those bodies. No body knows why they were being dumped at that time. Now, those bodies arrive here but the dumping or burying in ground is banned now by the police. People only cremate them over pyre,” said Ajay, Unnao resident, who spoke to The New Indian.
“I never saw water burials of bodies here. I don’t know why it was reported then. Bodies were cremated during COVID,” said Ram Kishan.
The study has now been forwarded to National Mission for Clean Ganga, Ministry of Jal Shakti and other Centre bodies.
The study has also said that during both phase-1 and phase-2 studies pH of river Ganga was found within the prescribed limits (6.5-8.5) in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The study though said that values of colour suggested most Ganga river sites were unfit for bathing in both Bihar and UP.
“During Phase-1 the values of color in most of the sites of Uttar Pradesh indicated that the water is unfit for outdoor bathing but was found (≥10 Hz) suitable for propagation of aquatic life whereas during phase-2 the color of water samples collected from Tari Ghat, Ghazipur and Assi Ghat, Varanasi were found unfit for outdoor bathing,” it pointed out.
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