Volunteers pitch in to perform last rites

Every day, around 20 volunteers are busy performing the final rites.

Every day, around 20 volunteers are busy performing the final rites.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

They have given a decent farewell to 139 COVID-19 victims and want to be tested regularly

Over the past week, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the city, which recorded 29 deaths on Friday and 23 deaths on Saturday. Given the spread of the virus, family members are wary of performing the last rites of their loved ones, and are relying on the kindness of volunteers.

Every day, around 20 volunteers are busy performing the last rites of those who succumbed to COVID-19. For social worker Sayyed Fairoze and his friend Mohammed Ayub Pasha, who works in the office of an MLA, it was an incident on April 14 that prompted them to take up this work. A man had died after contracting COVID-19 and his family was not aware of the protocol. Those were the early days when Bengaluru was in lockdown and the caseload manageable. “Nobody came forward to do the final rites of the deceased person. It was then that we decided to step in and perform the last rites ourselves,” said Mr. Pasha.

Since then, the number of volunteers has been steadily increasing. To help families, Mr. Pasha and Mr. Fairoze have been making videos of precautions to be taken during cremation and burials and uploading them on social media. “We have so far cremated or buried 139 bodies. It is heart-breaking as families refuse to perform the last rites of their loved one who has passed on. We have performed the last rites of people belonging to all communities with the sole intention of giving them a dignified send-off,” said Mr. Pasha.

The volunteers’ group has also been pooling money to help those who cannot afford it. “Initially, we received some help from MLA for Chamarajpet B.Z. Zameer Ahmed Khan. We get PPE kits from the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, along with bleaching powder and disinfectant,” Mr. Pasha added.

Another volunteer, Syed Risalath Jah, a businessman, said locals were unhappy with the work they were doing. “We have had to face quite a bit of opposition from local residents. We have had a hard time making them understand that we are taking all precautions. Even our families are worried about our safety,” he said.

Over the last few weeks, several youngsters have been joining them in volunteer work. A few family members of the deceased persons have also donated PPE kits and money.

“We use double gloves and masks, which are disposed of as per protocol along with the body. We sanitise the vehicles each time as well,” he said.

The volunteers have only one request: that they all be tested for COVID-19 once every 15 days. “We are not going to stop performing last rites. Though we take utmost care and all precautions, for the sake of our family members, the authorities concerned must test us,” said Mr. Jah.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2020 11:39:25 AM |

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