In a move that reflects the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in Delhi, a public park has been converted into a cremation ground in south-east Delhi. Pyres are likely to start burning at the ground from Monday as bodies pile up across the city and designated crematoriums struggle to keep pace.
A worker at the nearby Sarai Kale Khan crematorium said they have only 20 pyre platforms and two e-furnaces — one of which is out of order and the other is running round the clock.
“On Saturday, there were 27 bodies and on Sunday there were over 30 till 5 p.m. With the surge in COVID-related deaths, we were getting short on space... We are hopeful of managing the situation better with the 20 new platforms being built in the park. At present, we are operating from 6 a.m. to midnight,” he said.
“Another 50 platforms may come up in the remaining part of the park,” said Shyam Kumar, a contractor who has been assigned by the South civic body to build the 20 platforms.
People are running from pillar to post for space at cremation grounds and many have to wait for over six hours to perform the last rites, said Suresh Bharti, who had come to cremate his brother-in-law. Some bodies are coming to the Sarai Kale Khan crematorium from as far as west Delhi.
The situation is similar at all other cremation grounds in Delhi-NCR, said Santosh Kumar, an ambulance driver, who brought three bodies to the cremation ground from a hospital in south Delhi.
Sunil Kumar Aledia, executive director of NGO Centre for Holistic Development, said there are separate platforms at all cremation grounds for COVID and non-COVID bodies. “Due to surge in COVID-related deaths there is not enough space for cremation, but the platforms in the park have been built around green trees instead of in the open. It will damage the greenery in the park. The construction could have been done on vacant land next to the crematorium,” said Mr. Aledia.