Shocking images have surfaced of bodies lying in a hospital corridor at the venerable King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. Inside the Covid-19 mortuary of Delhi’s Lok Nayak Hospital storage racks are full and bodies have been piled up on the floor. These are just two illustrative side-effects of cremation facilities getting backed up in our cities, causing distress to the families of the diseased patients but also to hospital employees.
In Delhi for example the municipal corporations have disallowed wood pyres for cremation and so the load has naturally increased at the electric and CNG crematoriums. Note that the first would cause the second even without Covid. As the electric and CNG furnaces work overtime they tend to break down, worsening the backlog. It has been reported that this means officials wait outside crematoriums the whole day, wearing PPE suits, only to be told that they should return the next day. Now as municipal corporations are forced to repermit wood pyres, it is staff of these facilities who are protesting.
These protests are in line with what has been seen from Chennai to Vallabh Vidyanagar, because of misinformation about dead bodies spreading Covid even after they have been handled with standard precautions. Fake news, rumours and misinformation feed an infodemic that in a way is as dangerous as the coronavirus. Fact is the dead deserve our respect as much as the living. At a time when traditional funerals are impossible and therefore people cannot mourn the passing of their loved ones in time-honored ways, the least that must be ensured is timely and courteous cremations. So fix those broken furnaces and build more as needed from Delhi to Mumbai.