Kanpur: As coronavirus cases surge, the number of cremations taking place at the city's crematoriums has increased several-fold -- far more than the 66 deaths officially attributed to the virus in the entire district over the past six days.
Data from Bhairoghat and Bhagwatghat crematoriums shows 462 bodies were consigned to flames from April 19 to April 24.
People have to wait with the bodies for the last rites and the situation is no different at burial grounds.
In the six-day period, Kanpur Nagar district officially recorded 66 COVID-19 deaths, while 406 cremations took place at Bhairoghat and 56 in Bhagwatghat alone. The Bhairoghat crematorium also includes an electric crematorium.
"The number of cremations has risen several fold in the last week," said Qamruddin, a Kanpur Municipal Corporation employee at the Bhairoghat electric crematorium.
"Until last month, we were cremating less than 10 bodies a day, but for the last 10 days, we have been handling over 50 bodies every day," he said.
Data shows that 91 of the 406 funerals were performed at Bhairoghat on April 21 alone, he added.
The spurt has forced the people to wait for hours to cremate the dead, Qamruddin said.
"We are working for long and incinerators are running full time, but many people still have to wait with the bodies for the last rites," he said.
Additional District Magistrate Atul Kumar said information about all the COVID-19 patients as well as their recovery or deaths is uploaded on the government portal, so "it is impossible to hide or alter the death toll".
He, however, refused to comment over the large number of bodies being brought to the crematoriums, contrary to the COVID-19 death figures being shared with the media and displayed on the official portal.
The divisional commissioner and the district magistrate were not available for their comments.
According to Dhaniram Panther, a social worker who voluntarily performs last rituals of unclaimed bodies, the electric and firewood funerals at the crematoriums have been running without a break almost everyday during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Over 400 bodies were cremated in the last six days, while the official coronavirus death toll stood at 66 during the same period. We are working with 100 per cent capacity to cremate the bodies on time," Panther said.
The Bhairoghat crematorium has cremated 50 to 90 bodies a day during the last week, far in excess of the city's official daily coronavirus death toll of approximately 10, said Panther.
"I have been regularly performing cremations of unclaimed bodies for decades, but I haven't seen bodies in such large numbers awaiting funeral. Sometimes the crematorium ran out of wood and people were asked to bring it themselves," Panther said.
A large number of bodies are being brought to the Muslim graveyards as well for burial and many graveyards are left with no space for further burial of bodies, Panther said.
A health official said 1,060 people have died so far from the coronavirus in the Kanpur Nagar district according to official data, while over 100 such deaths were reported in the last 11 days.