Monday, 30th October 2017

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Virus fear haunts the dead

Crematorium workers refuse last rites

By Achintya Ganguly in Ranchi
  • Published 7.04.20, 1:04 AM
  • Updated 7.04.20, 1:04 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
The family with the body then shifted to another burning ghat beside Subarnarekha river at Namkum around 6km from Harmu, where they faced a similar problem. (Shutterstock)

Let alone those alive, coronavirus threat isn’t sparing the dead too.

A small group of family members and friends of Durga Prasad, 65, who died on Sunday afternoon, realised it when they went to cremate his body at Mukti Dham at Harmu in Ranchi the same evening. Workers at the cremation ground refused to cremate the body apprehending that Prasad might have died of coronavirus-related complications.

“My only mama (maternal uncle) died of stroke in Bokaro on Sunday and we brought the body for cremation in Ranchi because his family lives at Kokar here,” said Saket Paswan, who also lives at Kokar.

“We tried to convince them and showed the death certificate issued by Bokaro General Hospital (of SAIL) and even offered to get it verified by anyone they considered reliable but they still denied cremation,” Paswan said, adding even intervention by Ranchi’s deputy mayor and some police personnel who were nearby failed to make them heed to the request of the family.

The family with the body then shifted to another burning ghat beside Subarnarekha river at Namkum around 6km from Harmu, where they faced a similar problem.

“It could be that the Mukti Dham workers informed those at Namkum over the phone,” he said, adding that the intervention of a journalist finally worked and they could cremate the body later in the night.

But why such an ordeal?

“Simply because the truck we hired for carrying the body had a banner stuck to it, possibly used by the administration as a campaign material,” Paswan said, adding they didn’t notice the banner earlier. The banner read: “Corona banner deputy commissioner.”

“My mama had certain complications as he suffered from diabetes and hypertension and was hospitalised in two Ranchi hospitals before he was shifted to the Bokaro hospital where he was an employee,” Paswan said, adding that Prasad, a former compounder at the Bokaro hospital, was entitled to free treatment at the hospital and the medical expenses in Ranchi was taxing for a retired person like him.

“He also suffered a stroke and eventually died there on Sunday,” he said.

Though the cause of death was mentioned cardio-respiratory arrest in the death certificate, the diagnosis was stated as DDM, HTN, stroke and left thalamic ICH (diabetes mellitus, hypertension, stroke and left thalamic intracranial haemorrhage), which are not related to coronavirus.

“I spoke to the workers at Mukti Dham and tried my best to convince them but they didn’t heed to any explanation,” said Ranchi deputy mayor Sanjeev Vijayvargiya who also lives in Kokar.

“I was shocked to know that a body was not being allowed to be cremated and intervened when I was convinced that the person didn’t die of coronavirus,” said Akhilesh Kumar, a reporter with a vernacular daily, who finally convinced the workers at Subarnarekha burning ghat.