Faith no bar for some in performing last rites

NGOs step in to bury and cremate bodies of COVID victims

Updated - July 02, 2020 11:27 pm IST

Published - July 02, 2020 11:26 pm IST - HYDERABAD

Ambulances parked in front of Gandhi Hospital, some of which are used to carry bodies to graveyards and cremation grounds.

Ambulances parked in front of Gandhi Hospital, some of which are used to carry bodies to graveyards and cremation grounds.

With cases of the kin of deceased COVID patients or those who died with coronavirus-like symptoms, facing stigma and difficulties in performing their last rites coming to light, members of the civil society have come forward to liaise with the authorities concerned and facilitate burials or cremations.

Humanity calls

What is heartening is that this is being done irrespective of the faith to which the deceased belong.

For instance, Youth Welfare Telangana, an NGO led by businessman Syed Jalaluddin Zafar has helped in burials and cremations of several bodies over the past few weeks.

A resident of Chandrayangutta, the 38-year-old says, “Most of the bodies were taken for burials to the Faqeer Mullah graveyard, a large portion of which has been earmarked for coronavirus patients. Others have been cremated in Santosh Nagar and Ameerpet.”

It was a little over a fortnight ago, Mr. Zafar says, that his friend’s father, who was COVID positive, passed away. The stigma associated with the virus is such that it frightened the patient’s son and he kept away from the funeral.

“It was an unfortunate incident and that is when we decided to facilitate burials after getting in touch with the management of Faqeer Mullah graveyard. We ensure that PPE kits are worn and all precautions are taken as per government guidelines, and the namaz-e-janaza is offered. We had met Health Minister Eatala Rajender, nearly a week ago, with other organisations and informed him of our work. The biggest challenge is getting ambulances to transport the bodies. There is waiting time of two or three hours,” he says.

Service in hand

It was due to similar reasons that Sai Teja and a group of techies embarked on ‘Serve the Needy’, a project launched to perform the last rites of COVID patients. “My friend’s mother, who was tested positive, died at a private hospital a week ago. His family was quarantined. The family was not allowed to leave the house and we decided to take it up,” Mr. Teja says.

As a pilot project, ‘Serve the Needy’ will now focus on the Cyberabad area and last rites of the deceased, irrespective of which faith they belong, will be facilitated.

Much like Mr. Zafar, Mr. Teja too notes that arranging an ambulance remains a pressing issue.

“We had to pay ₹20,000 for the ambulance and were not given any bill. At such a time, there is a need for empathy. Unfortunately, this was missing,” he said.

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