Dead bodies float in rivers as Covid ravages rural India, journalist Barkha Dutt tells ITV News

Indian journalist Barkha Dutt described the "horrifying" scenes on the ground in rural areas

Scores of "unidentified" dead bodies have been floating in rivers in rural India as Covid ravages the country, a renowned Indian journalist has attested.

Barkha Dutt, a nationally well-known figure and columnist for the Washington Post, has spent months reporting on the ground during the outbreak.

Recently, she's turned her attention to the rural areas she feels have been ignored and under-served during the second wave.

"We’ve actually seen bodies, unidentified bodies... floating in the rivers of our hinterland,” Ms Dutt told ITV News.

Ms Dutt believes infections in rural India will "boil over" in the coming weeks

Officials in the eastern state of Bihar have said 71 bodies were retrieved from the Ganges River on Monday night.

Authorities performed post-mortem examinations the following day but said they could not confirm the cause of death as the bodies were too badly decomposed.Ms Dutt said although infection rates in some Indian cities are steadying, the virus is "shifting from the cities into the interiors, into the villages". 

“In rural areas, the fire is just beginning to simmer, I feel it will really boil over in the next few weeks," she predicted.

On Wednesday, India's death toll passed a quarter of a million, while the World Health Organization said India accounted for half of the global number of cases reported last week.

Ms Dutt, however, echoes numerous reports that even these figures are huge underestimates.

Ms Dutt says Covid statistics in India have been grossly underestimated

"Modellers who are working on Indian data actually believe that 1.2 million Indians are already dead. Others are projecting another additional million deaths by June.

"And yet our official figures continue to hover a little over 4,000 a day."

India's government has been roundly criticised throughout the outbreak - many believe officials failed to prepare for the inevitable second wave.

Ms Dutt also condemns their approach after the second spike in cases struck.She said: "I'm disturbed by the absence of attempt at truth-telling in the chronicling of deaths.”

"There's absence of focus on the lives of people; more of a focus on image building, which is really really tragic".