Andhra Pradesh

Pandemic robs the dead of their dignity in Srikakulam

People shying away from funerals of family members

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only delivered a blow on life and livelihood, but also seems to be haunting people even after death.

The fear of contracting the infection so palpable that be it a COVID death or a natural one, people are shying away from giving a respectable adieu to those departed.

Forget about the near and dear ones, even the family members are hesitating to attend the funerals. Case in point is the recent death of a 70-year-old COVID positive patient in Palasa municipality of Srikakulam district. His body was towed away in an earthmover after his family members and kin refused to perform the last rights.

Officials warned

The incident led to the suspension of six officials including the Municipal Commissioner and sanitary inspector. Collector J. Nivas also warned of stringent action against officials who failed to ensure decent last rights to the people who died of the virus.

As many as six persons died of the virus and around 200 persons have died of natural reasons in the last two months.

Even as the government has permitted 20 people to participate in funerals, hardly ten persons are not coming forward to perform the last rights.

“People are scared. Fear of virus is getting better of relationships. No one wants to contract the infection,” says a senior citizen from Palasa on the condition of anonymity.

In Srikakulam, several organisations have specially designed vehicles for funeral. However, the drivers are not willing to carry the bodies. Taking bodies to cremation or burial ground has become a Herculean task.

Sources say that earthmovers and tractors are being used to shift bodies in Palasa and Sompeta.

Some people point fingers to the poor coordination among municipalities, panchayats and the Health Department.

Officials are hesitant to take the responsibility despite the directive issued by the Collector, they allege.

“There is no harm in participating in a funeral if one adheres to all the COVID-19 protocols,” says the Collector.

Special ambulance

Indian Red Cross Society (Srikakulam) president P. Jaganmohana Rao says an ambulance is being redesigned with the help of CV Nagajyothi Foundation to ensure graceful final journey to the deceased.

“The recent incident in Palasa municipality has prompted us to redesign the ambulance for funerals. It will be ready in a few days. Our employees will also be trained to handle bodies while protecting themselves from the infection,” he says Mr. Jaganmohana Rao.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 11:36:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/pandemic-robs-the-dead-of-their-dignity-in-srikakulam/article31940783.ece

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