Scores of decaying dead bodies have surfaced in India's sacred Ganges river, as dogs, crows and vultures hacked away at the corpses.
NDTV news channelreported on Wednesday that more than 100 bodies had surfaced in the river between Kanpur and Unnao districts in the northern Uttar Pradesh state.
"There are few bodies that have been found on the Periyar bank of the River Ganges. I have asked the police and my staff to probe it," Unnao district official, Suraj Prasad, said.
"Action will be taken after the probe how the bodies came into it. It could be that some bodies were submerged after the death. They came on the back due to low water level," Prasad added.
Officials do not suspect a crime, and instead believe the dead were given water burials. It is Indian custom not to cremate unwed girls, and many poor people cannot afford cremation.
Local residents blamed the state and federal government for the floating bodies.
"The environment is being polluted and it is a very shameful thing. Both the federal government and state government are responsible," resident Alok Dikshit told the Reuters news agency.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was elected to represent the 3,000-year-old riverside city of Varanasi, has pledged to clean up the ganges, as part of a broader push to husband India's scarce water resources and improve standards of public health and of public health and hygiene.
However, previous attempts to clean up the river, including introducing flesh-eating turtles to devour the charred remains of the dead cremated on its banks, have failed due to a lack of planning or coordination.
Tens of millions of Hindus bathe in the Ganges in an act of ritual purification, believing the river cleanses them of sin and frees them from the cycle of rebirth.
Despite its important role in Hinduism, the 2,500km river, stretching from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, is tainted by industry and the settlements along its banks, which quickly turn the clear waters from the Himalayas into a murky, frothy brown downstream.
|Worshippers believe that bathing in the River Ganges during the festival will absolve them from sin [AP]
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies