Pyres Burn Non-Stop at Mumbai’s Crematoriums 

Workers at Mumbai’s crematoriums want priority in the vaccination drive.

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Video Producer: Mayank Chawla
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam/Puneet Bhatia

With the COVID fatalities recorded in thousands in Delhi and Mumbai, crematoriums have been burdened with long queues of bodies. Crematorium workers have been working day and night with the pyres burning continuously. Mumbai’s Ghatkopar cremation ground has such a sight.

“The PPE kits stick to the body in high temperatures and the gloves gets punctured while handling the logs.”
Deepak Pal, crematorium worker

Pal says that nearly 18 bodies are now coming to the cremation ground every day. The number has come down from last week.

The four members of the staff at the crematorium in Mumbai’s Dadar district have divided work among themselves. One is a cave digger while two work around the pyres.

Sudhir, a worker at the crematorium says, “We treat each body with respect and people bless us since we are the ones who touch the COVID positive bodies.” He adds that he has never got infected with the virus.

Almost 15-16 bodies are cremated at the Dadar crematorium. At a third crematorium in Worli, 16 to 17 dead bodies come in a single day. It takes at least three to four hours to burn a corpse on wood and there is a staff of only four.

At the same time, the operator of the electric furnace says, “Due to the scarcity of water, the machine does cool down. As a result, we cremate only 8 bodies in a day. In such a situation, it is very difficult to handle the crowds.”

Crematorium Workers Must Get Vaccine on Priority

The crematorium workers have been left to fend for themselves since all the efforts of the authorities is focused on stopping the spread of the virus. The employees working in such harsh conditions have no choice, but to carry on in the same way.

Pal says that vaccination priority should also be given to these employees who cremate the bodies. Burning corpses of COVID positive patients carries a high risk of infection. Despite this, Pal has not yet received the vaccine.

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