The Punjabi Bagh cremation ground, currently reserved for Covid funerals, had to divert bodies to other facilities on Thursday as it reached its capacity during the day.
Standing committee head of South MCD, Bhupender Gupta, said the cremation ground has a capacity for 65 bodies but it had received 73 until 3 pm on Thursday. “The surplus had to be shifted to other facilities so that people who have lost their relatives don’t have to wait,” he said.
An official at the cremation ground, too, said, “There is no space here. There are other facilities in Delhi; we suggest one goes there.”
Data from the South MCD shows that the cremation ground received 65 bodies on Wednesday, 65 on Tuesday and 48 on Monday.
The issue was also flagged by Delhi’s government’s biggest Covid-only hospital, Lok Nayak, where 34 bodies were brought to the mortuary until 4 pm on Thursday, putting mortuary staffers under strain. The hospital typically directs families to specific cremation grounds.
“After repeated requests, some bodies were sent to the cremation grounds in Nigambodh Ghat, Panchkuian Road and Mangolpuri. Four were sent to the burial ground in ITO. At present, 23 bodies remain in the mortuary,” said a senior doctor from the hospital’s mortuary.
A senior official with the civic body said, “Till recently, the MCD facilities had a capacity to perform 95 funerals as per Covid protocol per day. This has now been increased to 360. We have also reorganised our structure on the basis of which hospital will be sending bodies to which facilities to ensure people are not forced to wait. Now, bodies from Lok Nayak Hospital will be sent to Nigambodh Ghat instead of Punjabi Bagh.”
The South MCD spokesperson said no one was denied a funeral. “There are clear instructions not to refuse anyone. However, as per the arrangements, bodies from Lok Nayak Hospital have to be sent to Nigambodh Ghat,” he said.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and former Rajouri Garden MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa also tweeted a video showing several funeral pyres at the Punjabi Bagh crematorium. He told The Indian Express, “I had gone to Punjabi Bagh today for the last rites of someone I knew. Bodies were kept in vans as people awaited their turn. I was told some of them were asked to go elsewhere… Even I had to make a special request to get permission for the funeral… this is the situation in Delhi.”
Delhi has 13 cremation grounds, four graveyards and a cemetery under the jurisdiction of municipal corporations. Of these, six cremation grounds, four burial grounds and a cemetery are authorised to conduct the last rites of Covid-19 positive or suspected cases.
Covid protocol is to be followed for those who died of the disease as well as suspected cases.
The MCDs have added the option of wood-based cremations as per Covid protocol at six new places. This includes Mangolpuri, Inder Puri, Beri Wala Bagh, Wazirpur, Seemapuri and Ghazipur cremation grounds.
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