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After residents of Bharuch protest; Bodies of Covid patients to be cremated in open

On July 4, residents of the colonies near the designated Covid-19 crematorium, Shantidham in Ankleshwar — a gas crematorium — had protested against cremating the body of a retired police personnel, who had succumbed to the infection.

Written by Aditi Raja | Ahmedabad | July 18, 2020 6:25:34 am
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Days after residents of colonies situated around the two gas crematoriums in the district protested against cremating a Covid-19 patient’s body, the Bharuch district administration has now designated an open place on the banks of Narmada River at Kansiya village to cremate bodies on a wooden pyre. The new cremation place is located in a government-owned land along the banks of the river, away from residential areas.

On July 4, residents of the colonies near the designated Covid-19 crematorium, Shantidham in Ankleshwar — a gas crematorium — had protested against cremating the body of a retired police personnel, who had succumbed to the infection. The cremation was held up for 24 hours as protesters turned aggressive and refused to budge. The body was disinfected and wrapped in three layers of plastic as per the protocol, but the protestors cited concerns over “possible spread of Covid-19” from the smoke from the cremation.

The district administration had to then ferry the body to Bharuch town to another crematorium. Here too, similar protests erupted and eventually the body was cremated on the banks of the Narmada River in Bharuch on a wooden pyre. The site is located just after the Golden Bridge that connects Bharuch to Ankleshwar.

The cremation place at Kansiya in Ankleshwar town is about 10 kilometres away from the designated Covid-19 hospital of the district, Jayaben Modi hospital in Ankleshwar. Ramesh Bhagora, Sub Divisional Magistrate, Ankleshwar, said, “The land is owned by the government. We checked with our medical officers if cremations can be performed on a wooden pyre and they have given us a go ahead. People were unwilling to understand that no viruses can survive cremations of deceased patients in gas crematoriums which burn at about 300 degrees Celsius. We had no option but to shift to avoid such delays in the future.”

Bhagora said that the site was made ready for use about a week ago and has seen two cremations until now. Another Covid-19 cremation was held in the Bhorbhanta village of Ankleshwar taluka as the deceased belonged to the village and the panchayat was willing to allow the final rites to be held there. “They told us they can allow their own villagers to be cremated there, but not outsiders. So we chose this government land in Kansiya after duly confirming through the revenue survey numbers that it is a government land. It is also away from the residential areas,” Bhagora said.

The worry, however, is the ongoing monsoon which will make it difficult to light pyres. “The monsoon is here but we have also erected a temporary tin roof shade to ensure that the pyre is not put out during the rains. The staff has been told to take all due precautions as per the protocol and the PPE kits worn by the staff handling the bodies will also be disposed of in the same fire,” Bhagora said.

District Collector MD Modhiya said, “It is unfortunate that at such a time, people are not able to show sympathy… We have shifted the cremations to ensure quick disposals and avoid such people from gathering in the name of protests as they are not willing to relent or understand the scientific explanation.”

Meanwhile, Bharuch on Friday recorded its highest single-day spike in Covid-19 cases with 47 people testing positive, taking the district tally to 606.

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