Families lament lack of decent burial space

The CSI Wesley Cemetery at Trimulgherry has been following COVID-19 protocol while performing last rites.   | Photo Credit: RAMAKRISHNA G

The spike in coronavirus cases has set alarm bells ringing, and even as healthcare professionals and government officials are scrambling to deal with the situation, city cemeteries are witnessing an unusual rush in burials.

Over a dozen Christian cemeteries have confirmed that last rites are increasing. Funeral services agencies have also reported increase in the sale of coffin boxes, including COVID-19 protocol caskets. With a rise in COVID deaths, some cemeteries are running short of space and reluctant to allow burials, families and those working on the issue complained.

All COVID deaths reported in government hospitals and other healthcare facilities are being sent to common burial places identified by the government. But some are allowed in conventional cemeteries, if the proper documents are furnished.

The caretaker of over a century-old British time cemetery in the Secunderabad Cantonment confirmed that in the past two weeks, eight COVID related burials were conducted. “On Thursday, we had a COVID-related funeral in our cemetery. The day before, there were three burials of which one was a COVID case. There is indeed a rise in COVID deaths and last rites in our cemetery that caters to a major denomination of the Protestant churches in the twin cities,” the caretaker wishing anonymity told The Hindu.

Another representative of a cemetery in Narayanguda confirmed that they were getting phone calls forthe last rites of COVID patients but were being turned away to avoid any confrontation from local residents. A committee member of a cemetery in Medchal-Malkajgiri district that was developed by the government also admitted that local resistance was forcing families of the deceased COVID patients to be turned away.

Goneh Solomon Raj of the Greater Hyderabad Christian Burial Grounds Action Committee said this month alone, at least 60 calls were received in his office seeking assistance in burying the deceased COVID patients belonging to the Christian faith. “With great difficulty, we got place for 16 persons while others had to make their own arrangements,” he said.

John Wesley, who retired as Joint Secretary in Union HRD Ministry and now runs an evangelical ministry, flagged the serious space constraints for Christians. “It is our sincere request from the community that the government allots sufficient space for performing the last rites of the deceased persons,” he noted.

However, Church of South India, Bishop in Medak Diocese Rev A.C.Solomon Raj said instructions had been given to 115 pastorates that runs 1,000-odd churches in Telangana to ensure that the kin of no COVID victim is turned away. “Pastors are performing last rites following protocol,” he pointed out. Catholic Churches representative Rev Swarna Bernard also said there was no restriction on allowing deceased COVID patients from being buried in Catholic cemeteries in the twin cities and elsewhere.

COVID caskets

Ivor Fernandez of Heaven Bound Funeral Services in Kanajiguda, one of the leading funeral services in the twin cities, said COVID protocol coffins and caskets were being made to order. “As the body of a COVID patient is wrapped in a plastic body bag, we have started giving coffin boxes with a glass on top of it. The agency is selling around 225 coffins and caskets a month, and has seen increase in sale in the pandemic,” he added.

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Printable version | May 19, 2021 3:33:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/families-lament-lack-of-decent-burial-space/article34339462.ece

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