As they grapple with grief, family members of a person who died from the coronavirus disease are also facing a logistical issue: lack of private transport or ambulances to ferry the body to the crematorium amid the current lockdown.
Rules on the lockdown specify that attendance at funerals should be as low as possible, with only close relatives and friends attending. But as even private ambulances don’t have permission to ply, families of the deceased have no means to reach the crematorium for last rites.
“Services at the crematorium are going on as usual. But the difficulty is ferrying the dead for last rites due to unavailability of private ambulance drivers, as they don’t have permission to ply their vehicles,” said former Pune Mayor Prashant Jagtap. Follow coronavirus India lockdown LIVE Updates
In the current scenario, no one wants to even risk walking to the crematorium, even if it is located nearby, due to fear of contracting coronavirus. “Everyone wants to ferry the body in ambulances. Government and hospital ambulances are busy in service of coronavirus patients while private ambulances are not able to ply due to lack of fuel and permission from the government,” he said.
Jagtap said the district administration should issue special passes allowing private ambulances to buy fuel and ply.
At the crematoriums, most families are opting for cremation in an electric or diesel furnace, as, among other reasons, there are not enough hands to help with a traditional cremation with wooden logs.
“If the cremation is held in an open space, there is also fear of infection… very few attend funerals and want to finish it off as early as possible. Some families are preferring to skip the religious rituals attached to last rites so that all those attending are relieved at the earliest,” said a local resident who attended a funeral at Vaikunth, one of the biggest crematoriums in the city.
A staffer at Vaikunth crematorium said, “The use of wood to hold cremations at Vaikunth is almost nil now… there is a demand for electric or diesel-run furnaces.”
The other crematoriums, meanwhile, have seen low attendance, with the few family members and friends present practising social distancing, said a civic staff.
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