State home secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay has asked the Calcutta Municipal Corporation to tell the families of persons who have died of Covid-19 by when the bodies will be cremated or buried and lessen their harassment and mental trauma, civic officials said on Tuesday.
Bandyopadhyay has been appointed as nodal officer for Covid management in Calcutta.
In the absence of such communication, the families of deceased persons have to endure a long wait and many are unaware of the procedure. Many do not know that the bodies of Covid victims are not given to families for cremation or burial.
In Calcutta and Salt Lake, the civic body is in charge of cremation or burial of such bodies.
“Bandyopadhyay said there should be a dedicated number that families of deceased persons can call for information. He told us to fix a deadline by when the cremation or burial will be over. That will help us give concrete information to the families,” an official who attended a meeting chaired by the home secretary on Tuesday said.
Bandyopadhyay could not be reached for comment.
In a glaring example of how miscommunication can cause trauma to families, TV channel ABP Ananda reported on Tuesday that a Howrah resident who had been admitted to Calcutta Medical College on Thursday died the same day, but the family was told over the phone that he was doing fine. The man’s son found out on Tuesday that he had died on the day of admission.
Officials said once the CMC devised a system for giving specific information to bereaved families about cremation and burial, other civic bodies might be asked to follow suit.
CMC officials said frequent shutdown of the two electric pyres at Dhapa — where the bodies of all Covid victims in Calcutta and Salt Lake are cremated — is leading to a long queue.
“These are old facilities. Frequent glitches and shutdowns are leading to delay in cremation,” an official said.
The burial of Covid victims is done in Bagmari.
Metro has reported that earlier this month a family had to hire a freezer used to store ice creams to preserve the body of an elderly man at their Amherst Street flat for two days, till the report of his Covid-19 test arrived.
Bandyopadhyay, who held his first meeting with CMC officials on Tuesday as Calcutta’s nodal officer for Covid management, also asked officials to hire more hearses for transportation of the bodies. The CMC has only three hearses for Covid-19 victims, an official said.
According to guidelines issued by the Centre, the body of a Covid victim must be placed “in a leak-proof plastic body bag. The exterior of the body bag can be decontaminated with 1% hypochlorite. The body bag can be wrapped with a mortuary sheet or sheet provided by the family members…. The body, secured in a body bag, exterior of which is decontaminated poses no additional risk to the staff transporting the dead body.”
Tuesday’s meeting chaired by Bandyopadhyay also decided that civic officials would visit Kishore Bharati Stadium in Jadavpur to decide whether a quarantine centre could be set up there.
“Bandyopadhyay asked why quarantine centres for Calcuttans have been set up in New Town and Howrah. We told him that attempts to set up quarantine centres within the city had to be shelved following opposition from residents of the areas where they had been planned,” the official said.
Proposal to police
Senior police officers from Lalbazar also attended the meeting, where Bandyopadhyay said people should get the latest bed data at Covid hospitals. “Officers in the police control room can tell callers about the bed status,” said a CMC official.