As COVID death toll rises, crematoriums, burial grounds come under pressure

On April 16, Delhi reported 141 deaths, the city’s highest single-day toll since the pandemic began

Crematorium in Gandhinagar | Photo - Twitter/@dpbhattaET

With the rising death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, crematoriums and burial grounds in various cities have come under pressure. Long queues of family members were reported in Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi in UP and Bhopal and Patna.

On Friday, Delhi reported 141 deaths, the city’s highest single-day toll since the pandemic began. AIIMS doctors said in one ward, 17 out of the 20 beds were lying vacant as some bodies are waiting to be disposed of and no patient can be admitted before the bodies are disposed.

The doctors have requested that the crematorium in Delhi’s Green Park be allowed to take bodies of Covid-19 patients to ease the situation.

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In Patna, too, there is a big queue every day with exhausted cremation ground workers saying they are not even getting time to have food. The Bihar government has instructed that COVID patients must be cremated in electric furnaces. At Bansghat, where the city’s only electric crematorium is operational, workers said about 20-25 bodies were being brought daily.

Unable to cope with the rising number of deaths, many funeral grounds are now planning expansion. Varanasi’s Ravindra Giri had to wait five hours at Harishchandra Ghat on Friday (April 16) before he could cremate his relative. “We have never seen such a sight …we are not even getting enough wood for pyre. We finally had to use unfit wood to burn (the body)…had to wait for 4 to 5 hours. We had to beg for our turn,” he told NDTV.

Lucknow’s Mukti Dham and two major Christian cemeteries and nearly 100 big and small Muslim burial grounds have a similar situation.

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In Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, crematorium workers complained of exhaustion as the number of dead rose and needed proper disposal. “In the last four days, we have cremated 200 bodies, including those that needed to be disposed of as per COVID-19 protocols. We have created a new such facility on two acres of land,” Mamtesh Sharma, secretary of the management committee of Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat, told PTI.

In Indore, families are being given token numbers to collect the ashes later.

Alleged discrepancies between the official death figure and the records at the crematorium have been reported in Bhopal. “The crematorium numbers are much higher than the official data. If reality is presented to the masses, they will be more careful,” Ajay Bishnoi, BJP leader, told NDTV.

Madhya Pradesh’s Medical Education minister Vishwas Sarang denied the government had been hiding death figures.

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