Patna: The second wave of COVID -19 has not only exposed the poor health infrastructure in Bihar but has also brought to fore the fact that nearly half of the electric furnaces in crematoriums in Patna, the state’s capital, are non-functional.
As a result, the few which are functional are forced to bear the brunt forcing the family and relatives of those who have died due to COVID-19 to wait for eight to ten hours for their turn to cremate their dear ones. Otherwise, they are left with the option of purchasing wood, which are sold at high prices by nearby sellers for the funeral rites.
At the Gulabi Ghat crematorium, only one of the two electric furnaces are functional, while at the Khajekala crematorium all electric furnaces are non-operational and it has been closed since the last two months, said an official of the Patna Nagar Nigam. He added that though there are two electric
furnaces at the Baans Ghat crematorium, the new one was not fully operational till Tuesday, April 13.
According to him, the only electric furnaces functional are the ones at the Baansghat crematorium and Gulabi Ghat, which are somehow managing the increasing load of cremation with rising numbers of deaths recently due to COVID-19 in different hospitals.
The Patna Nagar Nigam has allotted three electric furnaces for cremating those who have succumbed to COVID-19. Reportedly, people prefer the use of electric furnaces for funerals of COVID-19 infected persons in place of traditional wood fire. However, the scarcity is causing inconveniences to a great extent.
Gaurav Sinha waited for hours to cremate his close relative on Tuesday, April 13, at the Baansghat crematorium in the heart of Patna. “We reached the crematorium early on Tuesday along with the body directly from the government run Patna Medical College and Hospital. However, we were asked to wait till our number came. It was only in the evening that we could cremate the body as there were several others in line before us. We could see that the crematorium is under very high pressure particularly during this terrible period.”
He also alleged that taking advantage of the numbers of bodies in queue, the crematorium’s officials have been demanding Rs 10,000-15,000 for early funerals, out of turn. Officially, the government has fixed a rate of Rs 300 per person at an electric furnace.
Rameshwar Singh faced with similar difficulties when he was forced to wait for seven hours at the same crematorium for his mother’s funeral who had died of COVID-19. He said that the government doesn’t care about the dignity of those who have lost their lives because of COVID-19. He questioned, “Why are the families and relatives of those who have died forced to spend hours standing restless at the crematoriums as there is a lack of arrangement for funerals? There is only one crematorium and everyone has to queue here. This is utter failure of the authorities.”
He added that there are people who are silently doing the last rites of the dead near Baansghat crematorium with wood, some of whom may have been infected with COVID-19. “The government has made guidelines for funeral of those who were infected with COVID-19 and died at the hospitals but what about those who died at home as most of the hospitals have no bed available to admit a COVID-19 patient for treatment.”
An official of Patna Nagar Nigam, Pratibha Sinha admitted that most bodies of COVID-19 infected are brought to Baansghat crematorium from hospitals and that led to problems. She said, “Soon bodies will be sent to other crematorium for funerals to decrease the long lines.”
A Bihar-based activist Ranjeet said it is not only the case of Patna alone, most of the electric furnaces at crematoriums across the state are either defunct or closed due to one or other reason. “Authorities have no concern for such things,” he added.
He also said that in 2019, the Patna High Court had directed the government to submit a detailed counter-affidavit about the total number of electric crematoriums installed across the state and as to how many of them are functional or lying defunct. "Unfortunately nothing happened and electric furnaces at the crematorium in Patna itself are not functional,” he said.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation in Bihar has reached alarming levels. As per the official website of the state Health Department, COVID-19 cases have been rising many fold in the last two weeks. There were only 74 positive cases reported on March 30 in the state that rose to 4,157 on April 13.
In the last seven days, the state has reported 18,466 new COVID-19 cases, of which a little over 4,000 have recovered and more than 14,000 are still battling for recovery in different hospitals. During this period (from April 7 to 13), about 54 deaths have been reported due to the infection.