Updated: May 28, 2021 7:46:38 pm
Across crematoriums in Delhi, urns and bags line storerooms as several families have been unable to collect the ashes of their loved ones – either because they contracted Covid or they haven’t been stepping out for fear of getting infected.
According to officials at Nigambodh Ghat, when Covid cases peaked in April, there were a number of families who could not come to collect the ashes and perform the ‘visarjan’ (immersion).
“From April 1 to May 20, we performed the last rites of 2,500 people. Of that, ashes of around 50 were left unattended. Half of these were because families were afraid or were facing financial issues,” said Aadesh Sharma, in-charge of the crematorium, adding that the ashes were kept in the storeroom.
Suman Kumar Gupta, coordinator of the crematorium, said, “A few call and ask us to store it so they can do it at a later date. The ghat samiti steps in and performs the immersion otherwise.”
At the Punjabi Bagh crematorium too, officials said ashes of 20-25 bodies have been kept in a storeroom. Families who could not come at the time would complete their rituals as and when convenient, they said.
Meanwhile, 12 volunteers of Devotthan Sewa Samiti have been collecting ashes of those whose immersion could not be performed for similar reasons.
Vijay Sharma, general secretary of the organisation, said, “We have been ensuring that everybody has a respectful ending to their life… We have been helping with the immersion process of unclaimed bodies for 19 years. Around April 25, we saw that crematoriums could not handle the load, and ashes of many Covid patients were left unattended. So we decided to collect them and perform the immersion in Haridwar on October 1.”
On weekends, 12 volunteers head out to Nigambodh Ghat, Punjabi Bagh, Sarai Kale Khan, Green Park, and Madanpur Khadar crematorium grounds in private vehicles, collect the ashes, and store them at Nigambodh Ghat.
Sharma said each bag contains ‘asthiya’ of around 40 people and they have 153 such bags.
“Some of them are unclaimed bodies. Many belong to financially weak families who couldn’t afford to perform last rites at the time, and some are from families who have Covid cases or are afraid of contracting the virus from crematoriums,” said Sharma.
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