Punjabi Bagh cremation ground has decided to send the bodies of those who die of COVID-19 — in case they arrive — straight to CNG machine cremation space and not let them be cremated according to the traditional method.
The head priest of one of the noted cremation grounds in the Capital, Pankaj Sharma, said, “In case a person who has died of COVID-19 is cremated here, the family will be informed to send the body to the CNG machine. The bodies also come with a doctor and municipal staff, we have been informed,” he said.
The traditional method of placing the mortal remains on the pyre of wooden logs to cremate is not allowed for COVID-19 deceased because, in his opinion, “the virus can spread with the fumes” and also, “it’s just a decision that has been made”.
“Also, the bodies will not be unclothed for the last rites like they normally are. They’ll be cremated in the same clothes they are wrapped in by the hospital,” he said. Explaining the normal process, a staffer at the cremation ground said that first, the body is first showered with holy water and then placed on the pyre while the puja goes on simultaneously. The process will not be followed in case of a COVID-19 deceased.
Talking about the measures taken by the crematorium in the wake of the epidemic and subsequent lockdown, Mr. Sharma said that not more than 10-15 persons are allowed inside the cremation ground from one family. “If there are more than 10-15 persons, they are asked to stand outside while maintaining distance. Also, as people enter and exit, not only are they asked to wash hands but also are provided with sanitisers,” he said, adding that chairs, gates and the entire premises is sanitised first thing in the morning.
The cremation ground also runs its free ambulance service and said that on an average, bodies of about 10-12 persons are arriving everyday. Ambulance is also sanitised after each body is brought. As a procedure, details of the deceased, including cause of death, is maintained in the diary kept by the crematorium for record.
Talking about a change, ambulance driver Pritam said that most people, these days, are bringing the body straight to the cremation ground from the hospital in case the person dies in the hospital. “As a ritual, the body is usually taken home but these days, most people bring it straight here,” he said.
A small group of men, a family from Punjabi Bagh who had lost a member of the family, were at the cremation ground. Apprehensive of sharing details, one of them said that movement for this purpose during lockdown was hassle free. “In fact, our relatives from Uttar Pradesh had also come. We had sent them the death certificate on WhatsApp which they showed to the police while on their way here,” one of them said.