A high drama ensued at village Janer in Moga’s Kot Ise Khan Saturday after the work to construct a temporary cremation site for Covid patients by the district administration was stopped following objection by the locals.
The land in question is part of the de-addiction centre at Janer, which is run by Red Cross Society and the district administration. A portion of the land was lying vacant where district administration decided to come up with the temporary cremation site.
Apart from the locals, Congress’ former MLA Jugraj Singh Gill too objected to a ‘cremation site’ being constructed on the land that he had donated for ‘de-addiction centre and other social works’.
On Saturday, as a vehicle with bricks and other construction material reached the site, the villagers raised an objection saying that they will not allow cremation of Covid patients at the site. They said that if such bodies were cremated near the de-addiction centre, the addicts will stop going there for treatment. Protesters claimed that drug addicts from at least five adjoining villages come to Janer centre. Meanwhile, the administration had planned to cremate a body at the site and wood etc was being transported to the site but following the objection from villagers and seeing tension building up, the plan was cancelled.
Malwinder Singh, an Akali leader and a former sarpanch of the village, said, “It is okay if a body or two has to be cremated here on humanitarian basis but we cannot allow administration to make it an ‘adda’ (permanent place) for cremation of Covid bodies brought from outside. We will not object if the deceased Covid patient is from our village.”
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Chandigarh, 95-year-old Gill, who had donated the 5-acre land in the memory of his two late sons and wife, said, “I had donated land to Red Cross for running de-addiction centre, old age home and other social works, but not to convert it into a ‘shamshan ghat’. I am against the cremation of Covid patients on this land. A de-addiction centre is running here and if it becomes a site for cremating Covid patients, addicts will stop coming here for treatment and to take their daily medicine dose. I am not in the favor of any temporary cremation site here. I will move court if the Moga administration continues with its plan.”
Meanwhile, the sarpanch, Parminder Singh, a Congress leader, said, “Only some villagers are objecting to the cremations. They created ruckus in the morning as the construction material arrived. I tried to counsel them. On the basis of humanity, we cannot stop anyone’s cremation. Also, the land in question is owned by administration now and they can use it whichever way they want.”
Contacted, Satwant Singh, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Moga cum district nodal officer for Covid-19, said, “We wanted to have a separate, isolated site where we could cremate Covid bodies as sometimes families refuse to participate in last rites. So we decided to create a ‘temporary cremation site’ at Janer. Today we had to perform three cremations of which one was to be done at Janer but there was opposition. Though the land is owned by administration, we do not want to create any law and order situation. No cremation was done at Janer after objection.”