Members of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) in Tiruchi, along with the Popular Front of India (PFI), have been on their toes, conducting burials for the rising number of COVID-19 victims over the last year. In the last three months alone, 130 bodies have been buried, in accordance with the families’ religious preferences.
The number of burials goes up to 10 to 15 a day, these days, the volunteers say. "At this time last year, the daily count of deaths used to be just two or three," PFI district Secretary V. Mujibur Rahman said.
"We mostly conduct burials, in consultation with the families of the deceased. Some families, however, prefer cremations, we try to keep their requests in mind," he said.
Seven 7-member teams of SDPI and two six-member teams of PFI regularly keep in touch with the Tiruchi Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital where unclaimed bodies are handed over to them. The dead of families who are unaware of the procedure to be followed for COVID-19 burials, and those who are unwilling to, contact the volunteers.
Along with learning the World Health Organization’s prescribed method of COVID-19 burials, the volunteers also learned how to recite Christian and Hindu burial rituals.
"We perform the rituals ourselves as the families usually do not accompany us," Imam R. Hassan Faizi, Tiruchi District President, SDPI, said.
The bodies of the people who hail from other parts of the state or country, and die of COVID-19 are not allowed to be sent to their hometowns, because of which they too are buried in Tiruchi. "We have written to the district administration seeking permission to send the bodies to their hometowns," he said. Such an effort would provide peace to the family and would reduce the increasing pressure on the limited burial grounds in Tiruchi, he added.
Mr. Rahman said that they request the families of the deceased to purchase PPE kits to be worn by the volunteers and also pay for the earthmover to dig the grave. "According to WHO norms, a 10×10 feet grave has to be dug, and the body has to be buried in a body bag, wrapped properly," he said.
"For those who cannot afford it, we have stock of some PPE kits, while some donors come forward to pay for the burial rituals and earthmovers," he said.
Mr. Rahman has written to the Chief Minister seeking his intervention in creating a burial ground on the outskirts of the city solely for COVID-19 deaths. "At this rate, we will not have enough space. If the death rate in the subsequent waves is also high, we will need a designated burial ground," he said.
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