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Delhi: At crematoriums, packed ambulances, rushed farewells

The Punjabi Bagh cremation ground, now reserved for Covid funerals, had to divert bodies to other facilities on Thursday as it reached its capacity.

Delhi Covid-19 deaths, Delhi coronavirus death, Covid-19 Delhi deaths, Delhi deaths Covid-19, Indian Express news Relatives of the deceased with staff at the Punjabi Bagh cremation ground on Friday.

Three ambulances were parked outside the Punjabi Bagh crematorium on Friday, each with four to six bodies; aggrieved relatives standing outside were agitated due to the long wait for turns; and used PPE were discarded in a corner outside the cremation ground.

Those who came to cremate their relatives here said they had never witnessed such scenes before. While the medical staff in ambulances had their PPE kits on, security guards and the staff helping carrying the wood were only wearing face shields, masks and gloves.

Leaving the crematorium after performing the last rites of his father Prem Bahadur, Ravi said, “They bring four to five bodies in one ambulance and say cremate them as fast as possible.”

The Punjabi Bagh cremation ground, now reserved for Covid funerals, had to divert bodies to other facilities on Thursday as it reached its capacity. With the ensuing uproar on social media, several politicians tweeted pictures of pyres lit next to each other.

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Senior Congress leader Ajay Maken had also tweeted a video of the ground: “Received request to push for early cremation of a young boy from Basai Darapur, whose family was asked to wait for three days at Punjabi Bagh crematorium, which is allowed 65-75 Covid cremations per day. With three days waiting, at one of the many in Delhi — imagine the death rate.”

Maken was referring to Tarun Tyagi (32), whose cremation was eventually done on Friday. A businessman, he is survived by two children aged around three. His cousin Bijendra (41) said Tyagi was admitted to Lok Nayak Hospital on Tuesday and was there till Wednesday. “Later, he was brought to Agrasen Hospital in Punjabi Bagh, where he lost his life,” he said. Another relative Dheeraj (38) said, “Never in my life have I seen so many bodies huddled in an ambulance.”

Also at the cremation ground was the family of businessman Sushil Bharadwaj (53), who succumbed to Covid-19 on Thursday. “I did not tell anyone about the funeral as I did not want to risk exposing people to the virus,” said his son.

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A senior official at the South MCD said that the capacity to perform funerals at MCD facilities has been increased. “Till recently, the MCD facilities had a capacity to perform 95 funerals as per Covid protocol per day. This has now been raised to 360. We have also reorganised our structure as to which hospitals will send bodies to which facilities, to ensure that people are not forced to wait.”

Standing committee head of South MCD, Bhupendar Gupta, said, “Things are in control now with the Hastsal cremation ground open for Covid cases. We had around 45 to 50 cases by the evening at Punjabi Bagh, and bodies were sent to Hastsal too.”

Similar scenes of grief played out at Nigambodh Ghat. At least two hearse vans with five bodies each from Lok Nayak Hospital reached the Ghat between 2.30 and 3 pm on Friday. Van driver Shivam Thakur said, “We don’t have any other option, we get as many bodies as we can. Sometimes it’s six in one go.”

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Regular announcements to maintain social distancing at the cremation ground played in the background as several families performed last rites simultaneously.

Ankush Chauhan, who lost his 60-year-old father to Covid-19, told The Indian Express: “He got admitted at Lok Nayak hospital Thursday, and his test result came positive. On Friday morning, he passed away. We somehow managed to get a private vehicle to bring his body to Nigambodh Ghat. The government hearse vans carry too many bodies together… That’s not the goodbye anyone deserves.”

First published on: 13-06-2020 at 02:04:59 am
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