Indian man dubbed ‘Corona Warrior’ for cremating the bodies of 1,300 Covid victims dies of the virus himself – as experts claim the country’s real death toll is 1.6m, not official tally of 340k

  • Chandan Nimje, 67, volunteered to cremate hundreds of Covid victims’ bodies
  • The retired government official risked his life to perform the funereal rites 
  • When he caught the virus, he was unable to find a hospital bed or get treatment
  • A fellow volunteer has pledged to sue authorities for negligence over his death

An Indian man dubbed the ‘corona warrior’ for cremating 1,300 Covid victims has died from the virus after he was unable to get treatment and a bed in hospital.

Chandan Nimje, 67, was congratulated by Nagpur’s mayor for risking his life to perform the last rites for the hundreds of pandemic victims.

The retired government official worked with volunteers when family members refused to go near the bodies of their loved ones who had succumbed to the virus.

Chandan Nimje, dubbed the ‘corona warrior’ for cremating 1,300 Covid victims, has died from the virus after he was unable to get treatment and a bed in hospital

After over a year of cremations, Nimje finally caught the virus and struggled to get a hospital bed and a Tocilizumab injection.

His family were forced to fork out for a private hospital, spending all their savings, but they were still unable to save Nimje who died on May 26, The Times of India reported.

The ‘corona warrior’s’ sons also lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Arvind Rataudi, who worked closely with Nimje, said: ‘We approached everyone, not only for financial help, but also for a bed and medicines, but none responded. 

India’s crematoriums have been overwhelmed with the number of casualties from the virus in the second wave 

Family members of Vijay Raju, who died due to Covid, mourn before his cremation at a crematorium ground in Giddenahalli village on the outskirts of Bengaluru

‘We approached Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) commissioner, collector and other top officials, but no one helped the person who went out of the way to provide dignity in death to over 1,300 citizens.’

After his retirement, Nimje joined Rataudi’s King Cobra Youth Force (KCYF), an organisation which helps Covid victims set up in March last year.

He is believed to have contracted the virus when he went for his first dose of the vaccine and later suffered a mild fever before his sister, two sons and wife all started showing symptoms.

All five tested positive and Nimje’s health started to deteriorate as volunteers started to search for a hospital bed. 

Rataudi said: ‘I personally called the collector, NMC chief and political leaders to arrange an injection. But no one picked up calls. 

‘One of our volunteers in Delhi, named Arjun, who knew Dada, then sent four vials of Tocilizumab by Indigo flight, without asking for any money.’

But Nimje’s condition continued to deteriorate before his death on May 26. 

His fellow volunteers and family members performed his cremation.

After over a year of cremations, Nimje finally caught the virus and struggled to get a hospital bed and a Tocilizumab injection

Rataudi vowed to file a case against the chief minister, collector and NMC commissioner in Nagpur for negligence.

He said: ‘If we, with our thousands of activists, failed to get timely help for the old man, imagine the plight of common citizens due to such attitude of authorities.’    

It comes after grisly footage emerged of stray dogs eating human remains washed up on the banks of an Indian river as crematoriums continue to buckle under the strain of the Covid crisis.

Body parts, some of them half burnt, drifted onto banks of the river Bhagirathi in the town of Uttarkashi in Uttrakhand.

The retired government official worked with volunteers when family members refused to go near the bodies of their loved ones who had succumbed to the virus

One local resident said he was doing some painting by the river on Monday when he noticed the dogs ‘gnawing and feeding on’ the dead.

‘I feel it’s the death of humanity,’ the man told NDTV as he appealed to the local government to address the pile up of corpses. 

Locals are worried that they may be Covid victims and that the disease could spread through the water or via the dogs which have been eating the bodies.

Although India’s infection rate has declined since it peaked in early May, with daily cases at more than 132,364 on Wednesday, the daily death toll with 2,713 more victims is believed to be a drastic underestimate.   

A dog is seen chewing on what is claimed to be human remains

A stray dog is seen among human remains on the banks of the river Bhagirathi in the town of Uttarkashi in Uttrakhand

Local workers in PPE attend to the crisis on the banks of the river Bhagirathi in the town of Uttarkashi in Uttrakhand

The town of Uttarkashi lies on the banks of the river Bhagirathi in Uttrakhand state, northern India

Many of the country’s gats, the steps at the edge of river where Hindus traditionally burn their dead, the crematoriums and cemeteries, have become overwhelmed.

Crematoriums in New Delhi were last month running out of wood, such was the volume of dead each day.    

Ramesh Semwal, the municipality president in Uttarkashi, yesterday said he had ordered the local authorities to take care of the bodies in the river.

‘During the last few days, the number of deaths has been increased in our area. I also came to know that bodies are not burnt properly so I have directed the administration to arrange at Kedar Ghat for the cremation of half-burnt bodies,’ Semwal told NDTV. 

There was a similar instance of suspected coronavirus victims washing up on the banks of the River Ganges in the northern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh last month. 

Footage also emerged yesterday which showed relatives wearing full PPE dumping a body into the Rapti River in Balrampur, Uttar Pradesh. 

Authorities believe that families of the dead may have been unable to find space to cremate their loved ones or not been able to afford the last rites.  

India has been fighting a serious third wave of coronavirus for the past month, and although the number of cases are starting to decline, the country faces an in increasing daily death toll for weeks to come. 

India has reported an official death toll of 340,702 – but analysis published by the New York Times last week said this figure was more likely to be 1.6 million.

The paper projected that while this was the likely toll, the worst-case scenario could be as high as 4.2 million Covid deaths in the country of 1.4 billion. 

Vinod Paul, head of India’s coronavirus task force, dismissed the study and said it was ‘not backed by any evidence and is based on distorted estimates.

‘Our [fatality] number is 0.05 per cent of those infected. They’ve said 0.3 per cent. Why? On what basis have you decided that it’s 0.3 per cent of that large infection universe? There is no basis at all. Five people get together, make phone calls to each other and then throw this number. That’s how this report has been done,’ Mr Paul told NDTV. 

‘There may be some late reporting of deaths but there’s no intent of any state or the Centre. If I apply the same three times yardstick to New York, then there would be 50,000 deaths. But they say it’s 16,000. So this is distorted,’ he added.    

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