The whole world is currently going under a terrible phase of pandemic. Many countries have been badly affected and disappointing pictures of people dying are coming from across the globe. In this period of crisis, the roles of doctors, paramedics, policemen, journalists, sanitation workers in the fight against the invisible enemy is praise worthy. The government and society tagged them as ‘corona warriors‘. The shocking fact is that we all have forgotten the indispensable and most risky roles of crematorium staff members in the battle against the Covid-19.
At a time when the family members are not allowed to go near the bodies, who have died due to Covid-19, the Crematorium staff members across the globe are taking all the risks getting exposed to the risk of infection to bid a proper farewell to the people, who succumbed to the infection of the invisible enemy.
According to WHO, except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers (such as Ebola, Marburg) and cholera, dead bodies are generally not infectious. Only the lungs of patients with pandemic influenza, if handled improperly during an autopsy, can be infectious. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that bodily fluids do not leak and the carcass needs to plug the oral and nasal cavities otherwise infection can occur. But despite the possibility of Covid-19 infection, the Cremation staff members are doing their work without any fear for the sake of humanity.
We spoke to Rajmesh Deep who is a crematorium staff member at Rajghat, Sambalpur and doing his duty selflessly.
What prompted you to work in a crematorium?
Earlier I was working as an Auto-rickshaw driver. However, when the social organisation Sambal started managing the Rajghat in 2016, they asked me to work here. And since I had a zeal for serving people, I agreed to work here. Usually people are in a state of distress when their loved one dies. Making arrangements for cremation in such times is also difficult for them. Helping them in their time of need gives me contentment. My colleague Gandharba and I make every possible effort to ensure that people are able to perform last rites without any hassles here. Though we have been engaged for cremation of the Covid-19 infected dead bodies, we have not been recognised by the government as Covid warriors. Also I don’t expect any such entitlement and doing my duty selflessly.
How many staffs are there with you at the Raj Ghat?
There are 8 staff members including 4 security guards, 2 electrical technicians and 2 sweepers at the Raj Ghat here. Though I am in-charge of the security, I look around almost all other things like keeping records of the dead bodies that come here, arranging the firewood and making all other arrangements for cremation. Not only me but all the other staffs also perform all duties irrespective of their posts. The other staffs are Gandharba Rakar, Bala Mahanand and Aditya Mahanand.
How many dead bodies are cremated on a regular basis at the Raj Gaht here?
Around 10-15 dead bodies come for cremation every day at present. This includes Covid-19 patients as well. Whenever the corpse of a covid-19 patient is brought for cremation, it is completely sealed from all sides. We just have to place it on a bamboo pyre and slide it into the electric crematorium. There is nothing to be afraid about cremating a Covid-19 dead body. We have been explained by doctors and ADM who come during the cremation of the bodies. We are instructed about the precautions to be taken while cremating a covid-19 positive body. We have been provided with PPE kits and gloves.
Some people come to collect the ashes. In some cases, we also collect it and keep it inside a pot for the family members.
You have been working relentlessly during this period of Covid crisis. What does your family think about this work?
I have a small family including my wife and two sons besides a daughter. Ever since the pandemic began, I have not been going home. Since, we are working round the clock during this period as a large number of bodies are coming regularly; I am not getting time to go to my home. I have visited them a very few times in the last six months.
Neither I nor my family is afraid of getting infected by Covid-19. All of us in our family are compassionate and my family always encourages me to help others.