COVID victims denied dignity in death

COVID-19 dead are being denied opportunity for decent cremation in the city, owing to stiff and vociferous resistance by people residing in the neighbourhood of cremation grounds.

While getting space in hospitals is becoming increasingly difficult as the cases are spiralling by the day, final journeys of the departed too are riddled with problems.

Police and other officials entrusted with the duty of disposing of the bodies of COVID-19 victims are facing toughest time of their life, finding places for cremation.

“It’s like dance of death. Every day, we are having to find places for at least 20 dead bodies, including positives and suspects. Pyres are burning 24×7 at the sole location where we have somehow managed to find place,” shared an official under the condition of anonymity.

Located in the north-western part of the city, the location has four slots for COVID-19 funeral pyres, used one after the other as dead bodies stream in through the day and also night. After one body is completely burnt, there would be hardly any time to clear the place for next body. In the meantime pyres are arranged in the second slot for the next body, and the process goes on.

“We are appalled at the cruelty with which the dead are being denied space. Local people gang up and protest against cremation even as relatives of the dead person wail their heart out,” revealed an official.

Though the GHMC maintains the city’s grave yards and cremation grounds, they are mostly in the hands of the societies formed by local communities, he said.

“We are ensuring that all those carrying the body are dressed in PPE. However, the attire is a give away, due to which people are able to recognise the COVID-19 bodies,” a senior official informed. Strangely, the resistance is not as much at the Muslim grave yards, as the corporators and other leaders are taking the lead in facilitating the burials.

The only request they make is for burial in the night so as not to face any dissent. However, this is not possible in the cremation grounds, as funerals are not performed during night as per the Hindu customs, the official says.

However, at the location where they are burning the dead, cremation is performed even during night.

According to an account posted on Twitter, by a user with the handle @rjsaulakh, his friend’s mother who died of COVID-19, was one among the seven bodies which burnt simultaneously at the grounds.

“… Only shoulder available to him was me, no last rights, body put on cremation along with 7 other bodies which were burning nearby, much more grim situation to carry the dead body from hospital to cremation [sic],” he tweeted, with a picture of the situation.

Officials informed that they found another cremation ground in the south-eastern part of the city too recently, which may ease the situation. Further, they hope that people would relent as the number of the dead increases.

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