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Monday, May 10, 2021

Chandigarh: Once deserted, this cremation ground is aflame with pyres

Since only six of the 26 platforms at the ground are covered with sheds, the workers often cremate the bodies of Covid patients out in the open.

Written by Saurabh Prashar | Chandigarh |
April 29, 2021 10:33:01 am
This week started with the cremation of 13 bodies, 12 of them Covid-19 victims. It was the highest number the cremation ground had seen in a long time. Last year, the highest tally was eight in a day. (Representational)

Just a month ago, the cremation ground in Industrial Area used to wear a deserted look. Not any longer. A row of burning pyres on Tuesday is testament to the virulent pandemic sweeping the tricity. This week started with the cremation of 13 bodies, 12 of them Covid-19 victims. It was the highest number the cremation ground had seen in a long time. Last year, the highest tally was eight in a day.

On Monday, one of the bodies was of Maqbool Masih,  who had died of Covid-related complications at GMCH-32. Caretakers of the cremation ground realised that his body had been cremated only from the records. “His body was accompanied by a lone man in a Red Cross ambulance. We don’t know when he came, performed the last rites, and left the ground.”

Since only six of the 26 platforms at the ground are covered with sheds, the workers often cremate the bodies of Covid patients out in the open. The unpredictable weather coupled with the rush, their ignorance about the Covid protocol and lack of coordination with Red Cross Society and health department adds to the general air of feverishness at the ground.

Workers say the pandemic is much more deadly than last year. “Last year, I don’t recall cremating more than seven bodies of Covid patients in a day, this year, we have already touched 12. Every day, the number keeps rising. And to think that just a few weeks ago we had thought that Covid was over,” says a worker.

The Covid protocol only adds to the confusion. Pandit Hare Ram, who oversees cremations, recounts how most families keep their distance from the body. But there are others who try to conduct the cremation themselves thinking he (Hare Ram ) would be afraid of catching the virus. “The other day, relatives of a victim were distraught when after setting the body on fire, they realised that some parts had not caught fire.  We cremated the body with great difficulty. These are tough times,’’ he sighs.
Deendayal Tripathi, patron of Trikal Darshi Sewa Dal manning the cremation ground, says the  ground should be upgraded  to cope with the rising number of cremations due to the pandemic. ‘‘We also need to establish an LPG crematorium here,” he said.

Set up in 2019, the cremation ground hardly saw any activity until April 2020 when the contagion hit the union territory, and the administration designated it for the cremation of Covid victims along with the cremation ground  and LPG crematorium in Sector 25. But since the administration has set a window of 3pm to 6pm for the cremation of Covid patients in Sector 25, Red Cross brings most of the bodies here, resulting in a rush.


 

MC Commissioner KK Yadav, when contacted, said the Phase-1 cremation ground was requisitioned when UT-based hospitals started receiving Covid patients from neighbouring states, who later died here during the treatment. ‘‘It was difficult to ferry the bodies for long distances, so we opened this ground to Covid bodies as well.’’

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