At least 90 dead bodies, affected due to Covid-19, report to Gnanapuram Burial Ground every day in Vizag. But what’s pathetic is, not many are willing to take the remains of the departed souls worrying about the virus. Very few of them go and collect the remains to follow the tradition of thereby giving peace to their souls.
As Vizag sees a rise in Covid cases everyday, there are bodies lined up from 7 am at the burial ground. Initially, the cemetery was being run with a staff of around 12 members, but most of them got sick due to Covid and various other health issues. This forced the cemetery to run with limited workers. Currently, cremation works are done by six members who are working all day with no PPE kits for their safety. “They cannot wear a PPE kit in the burning hot area. Also, many of the family members of the departed souls don’t come forward to wear PPE kits and perform cremation works. It is all the lastman who works with dedication performing cremation for the souls’ ‘, said G Prasanna Kumar, the Incharge of Gnanapuram Burial Ground, Vizag.
Despite being affected with Covid-19, and isolated for 14 days, the lastman came back to the cremation works, leaving their family behind. According to the workers at the Gnanapuram Burial Ground in Vizag, they get less than minimum time to take rest. Soon as one dead body burns, another dead body is up for its final ritual. As the electrical crematorium takes up not more than ten dead bodies in a day, most of the bodies are burnt manually. “For the majority of the Covid-19 departed souls, their family members do not come forward to take the ashes. It feels painful for us but we cannot do anything. All we do is clean up the remains and burn the next body. However those who want the remains come at the given time and collect the ashes themselves”, said a social volunteer at the burial ground.
With so many deaths reported in the city everyday, and having the cremation area, with its limited space, the staff is forced to burn each body with two feet distance. With a shortage of staff, the cremation works are forced to be performed by not more than six people. With standard charges for cremation, the last man is given around Rs 1,200-1,500. “This is not such an easy job, we do not even get jobs anywhere else after telling that we worked in burial grounds previously. With a lot of stress everyday, though we take leave for a day, we come back on the next day”, said a worker at Gnanapuram Burial Ground, Vizag.