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Humanity still alive in Punjab: Ropar village, Ramgarhias open their cremation grounds for corona victims, unclaimed bodies

The gestures come amid reports of protests against the cremation of coronavirus patients, disruptions in the performing of last rites and in some cases, the family themselves refusing to claim the bodies due to fear of infection.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana | Updated: April 11, 2020 3:49:54 pm
At LPG-fired crematorium in Ludhiana. (Express Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

A ROPAR village has declared that its cremation ground is open for the last rites of unclaimed bodies of coronavirus patients not only from the district, but other parts of the state as well. The Ramgarhia community too has opened its LPG crematorium for the same in Ludhiana city, in cooperation with the municipal corporation.

The gestures come amid reports of protests against the cremation of coronavirus patients, disruptions in the performing of last rites and in some cases, the family themselves refusing to claim the bodies due to fear of infection.

In Ropar (Rupnagar) district, residents of Ghanauli village on Anandpur Sahib-Ropar road have not only passed a resolution declaring that none in their village will object to the last rites of COVID-19 patients but have also given the same in writing to the Ropar deputy commissioner.

Village sarpanch Kamaljeet Kaur, 29, an engineering graduate, said, “Recent incidents of families not claiming bodies of coronavirus patients or others not letting their cremations happen are a blot on Punjab. It is a shame. Due to fear of the virus, people are not cremating their own loved ones. So to give out a message that there is no danger if infected bodies are cremated, our village has taken this collective decision.We have given this in written to DC.”

Gurpreet Singh Gogi, ex-SGPC member and the sarpanch’s father-in-law, said, “Not only from Ropar, we are ready to cremate bodies of coronavirus patients from anywhere in Punjab. We have a team of volunteers in our village and conveyance facility to bring such bodies if anyone needs help. What has recently happened in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar is not our culture. It is not Punjab’s culture to disrupt last rites of anyone.”

Meanwhile, in Ludhiana, the Ramgarhia Educational Council too has opened its LPG crematorium opposite military complex at Dholewal for unclaimed bodies of coronavirus infected bodies.

Ranjodh Singh, president of the council, said they have made proper arrangements of sanitation and social distancing at the site. “Our LPG crematorium is open for last rites of coronavirus patients. We have made sanitisation arrangements and spots have been marked on the ground for social distancing.”

Ludhiana MC Commissioner Kanwalpreet Kaur, who visited the Ramgarhia cremation ground and others in the city on Friday, told The Indian Express, “We have 22 cremation grounds in Ludhiana MC limits and all of them have assured cooperation for coronavirus patients. If there is any unclaimed body, it will be cremated at LPG crematorium offered by Ramgarhia Educational Council. Another LPG crematorium is functional at Model Town.

However, one electric crematorium is lying dysfunctional at Daresi and as per their management, repair needs at least Rs 30 lakh and a month. It is not feasible to make it functional now plus we don’t have this much time. All other cremation ground managements in city have assured cooperation in case of coronavirus deaths. We have also formed two teams of four members each who will be managing bodies if families refuse to claim them.”

Recent incidents

Despite guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stating that “there is no additional risk of infection spreading from bodies if proper precautions such as hand hygiene etc. are followed…”, there have been several incidents of people objecting to the last rites of COVID-19 patients in their areas:

– In Amritsar, some residents of Verka village disrupted the last rites of former Golden Temple raagi Padma Shri Nirmal Singh and did not let the cremation happen there on April 2. Punjab Education department Saturday suspended a government primary school teacher, Harpal Singh, who allegedly led protest to oppose Nirmal Singh’s cremation at Verka. “Harpal Singh will soon be sent a chargesheet. He is suspended with immediate effect,” read the orders. He is the husband of a local Congress councillor. Finally Nirmal Singh’s body was cremated at common ground outside village.

-In Ludhiana, a family refused to claim body of 69-year old woman from Shimlapuri. Administration got the last rites done by the cremation ground sewadar

-In Amritsar, a family refused to claim the body of former additional commissioner Jaswinder Singh, administration did last rites

-In Hoshiarpur, one Harbhajan Singh from Moranwali village died of coronavirus. With his entire family in isolation, none from the village agreed to assist in his last rites and even refused to provide wood for it. Administration got the last rites done

-In Jalandhar, locals protested and objected to the last rites of a patient in Harnam Daspura area following which 60 persons were booked

(With inputs from ENS, Amritsar)

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