I'm tired: Assam man who cremated 400 COVID-19 patients
As the coronavirus caseload and the number of deaths in Assam is surging, a man has reached a breaking point, tired of cremating bodies round the clock. 43-year-old Ramananda Sarkar has cremated nearly 400 people in the last 5-6 months. He said the flow of bodies isn't ceasing and he is exhausted. "There's no rest for us," he lamented. Here's his story.
Sarkar came to Guwahati two years ago
Hailing from Jagiroad in Morigaon district of central Assam, Sarkar came to Guwahati two years ago and began working at the Bhootnath crematorium. Later, the district administration hired him for Ulubari crematorium, where most of the last rites are performed. Cremation is also carried out at Bhootnath crematorium; while some 72 burials have happened at Athgaon and Islampur cemeteries, an HT report said.
From 1-2 cremations, Sarkar has been performing 10-12 rites daily
Speaking to the daily, Sarkar said he started cremating the COVID-19 dead in April, and by this week, had performed nearly 400 last rites. "Earlier, it used to be 1-2 cases in a day, but since the past one month we have 10-12 cremations daily," he said. He added that he has two assistants and they rarely get a chance to catch a breath.
"There is no rest, I am getting tired"
Sarkar and team start performing the cremation around 3 pm, and their days end at 2-3 am. "I am getting tired and there's no rest for us. Earlier, I used to be afraid to handle bodies of COVID-19 patients, not anymore," he went on. He stays at a government-sponsored accommodation, has been tested several times, and fortunately hasn't contracted the infection, so far.
Official data doesn't recognize those who tested positive posthumously
Although the official COVID-19 death toll in Assam is 396, over 500 cremations happened so far. Apparently, the death audit board (DAB) doesn't count demises due to co-morbidities and those who test positive posthumously, hence, the number of people whose last rites have been performed and the state's count differ. Assam has logged 133,066 total cases so far.
Meanwhile, residents are finding it difficult to cremate loved ones
With deaths mounting, residents are struggling to accord respectable cremations to their loved ones. On September 6, Dr. Navanil Barua, head of neurosurgery at Guwahati's GNRC Hospital, wrote on Facebook to shed light on the state of affairs. He said when his brother died of COVID-19, he was 17th in line to be cremated. He claimed Guwahati might soon run out of "morgue space."
"Resources are stretched, team is working overtime"
"The Kamrup Metro administration is also facing a tough time cremating the COVID-19 deaths. Resources are stretched to a limit and the team is working overtime. As deaths mount, waiting time shall also mount as COVID-19 deaths are not handed over to relatives," he wrote.
District administration said it was well-equipped, private hospitals were negligent
However, the administration said private hospitals were not informing DAB about COVID-19 deaths, causing the problem. "There's a delay in performing last rites of those who expire at private hospitals as they inform the DAB about the deaths sometimes after 2-3 days. We can easily perform last rites of 10-15 patients daily at the designated places and there's enough manpower also available now," an official said.