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Odisha expanding cremation capacity

Workers of Satyanagar city cremation ground cremate coronavirus dead bodies, in Bhubaneswar.   | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Odisha, which has been reporting an average of 20 COVID-19 deaths every day has nevertheless started expanding cremation capacity across the State, which indicates an under-reporting of fatalities.

Though the State has been adding on an average over 10,000 cases to its daily COVID-19 tally, the daily death toll has remained around 20.

According to government data, Khordha district, of which State capital Bhubaneswar is a part, is losing four COVID-19 patients daily. Most of the bodies are cremated at the Satya Nagar crematorium.

The government, which has remained tight-lipped about revealing the number of persons who died while undergoing treatment for COVID-19, admitted that the Satya Nagar crematorium is unable to handle the increased pressure on the facility. There have been long queues of bodies waiting to be cremated late in the evening at the crematorium.

The newly appointed Bhubaneswar Municipal Commissioner has instructed officials to ready another crematorium near Patia by May 25. This facility will be operated with LPG, speeding up the process of incineration. The Commissioner said the Patia crematorium has been designated for the cremation of COVID-19 victims.

He, however, attributed the rush at the Satya Nagar crematorium to restrictions on performing funerals at Swargadwar, a crematorium at Puri. The corporation also intends to make another crematorium operational at Bharatpur in the city.

Cremation of COVID-19 patients, which was hitherto performed at one place in Sambalpur, is now conducted at four new places (one at Sambalpur and three at Burla). The Rajghat crematorium in Sambalpur has, however, been shut down.

Ground reports from Keonjhar districts also contradict official death figures. Since last year, the official COVID-19 deaths are given as 46. But Siddheswar Naik, who said he works at the Keonjhar cremation ground out of his own interest, said he had himself set about 150 bodies on fire since last year. “I have been instructed to keep mum over the number of bodies being disposed. In the last one month, on an average, 12 to 13 bodies are being brought for cremation every day. All bodies are brought by people draped in PPE (personal protection equipment) kits,” said Mr. Naik.

Disproportionate deaths have also been reported from Nuapada. While the government’s bulletin says 38 persons have succumbed to COVID-19 since last year, there were reports of over 70 deaths at the COVID-19 hospital at Nuapada alone in the second wave of COVID-19.

In Sundargarh, another district devastated by the second wave of the pandemic, bodies are sent to the respective panchayats for burial, as a sizeable population belongs to the Christian community. However, facilities designated for COVID-19 victims at Sundargarh and Rourkela have recorded increased cremations.

According to reports from districts, many people are losing their battle against the virus during home isolation. While many victims are cremated at their respective villages, civic administrations are sending personnel to transport bodies to cremation grounds, in case community members do not cooperate with the cremation process.

At the western Odisha town of Balangir, the vast cremation ground is seen dotted with the ashes of recently cremated bodies.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 10:57:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-expanding-cremation-capacity/article34567792.ece

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