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It’s work to death for burial ground employees in city
The steep rise in the number of bodies being brought for burial and cremation, the caretakers and workers at burial grounds in the city said they were exhausted after working nonstop.
Compared to earlier times, they are now receiving about double the number of bodies, which is forcing them to work for about 12 hours a day.
“Before the pandemic -19, we used to receive only 10 bodies a day. Now, the number has increased to 22 to 25 bodies per day. Our workers are working continuously,” said Esther Shanthi, caretaker of Otteri burial ground.
According to her, the cremation of bodies starts at 8 am and goes up to 8.30 pm. The pressure they have to withstand is not just the increased workload. Esther said local politicians were demanding priority service and created issues if caretakers failed to accede to the demands.
“Phone calls seeking bookings have increased nowadays, but we can only conduct burial or cremation based on bookings. I had cried due to the interference of local politicians, who misuse the names of legislators,” she said.
The situation is the same across the city, especially in larger burial grounds like the one in Kannammapet. “COVID burials were less in number until a few weeks ago, but have drastically increased now. Unlike regular cremations, these bodies take more time as a lot of precautions have to be taken. The only difference is that the number of people coming to graveyards reduced. We barely have five or ten people with the bodies,” said Simeone, the caretaker of a burial ground in city.
Kin of deceased wait for days for crematoriums to free up
Several families of COVID victims wait days before they could cremate their loved ones due to overcrowded crematoriums and lack of mortuary vans in the city.
Arvind Kumar (45) passed away at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital due to complications from COVID on Tuesday morning after spending three days in the ICU. However, the family had to wait until late on Wednesday to complete his last rites as they could not find a slot at the crematorium as well as a mortuary van to transport the body.
“It is agonizing to witness your loved one pass away without any family members present. The trauma continues as the deceased continue to remain in the mortuary for days before they can be cremated,” said a close family member.
S Narayanan, who had lost his mother-in-law on Friday said he had to wait to receive the body for the whole day. “There are so many people waiting in front of the mortuary to receive bodies. The process is too slow and workers expect money to hand over the bodies,” he added.
He said staff at mortuaries arrange for time slots for cremation at the burial ground and keep the bodies until they find a vacant time slot.
Meanwhile, a Chennai Corporation sanitary inspector said each of the major government hospitals has more than 100 bodies at their mortuaries.
“We are releasing bodies based on the availability of burial ground and keep the bodies at mortuaries for two to three days,” he said.