COVID-19 victims' families continue to pay for funeral despite government assurance to bear expenses
Till today, Manipur has no separate burial or funeral place for cremating COVID-19 victims yet.
The Manipur health department on November 20 had announced that the department is working on the process of bearing the funeral expenses of COVID-19 victims. It had also announced to refund the funeral money amount spent by families of COVID-19 victims. But, till today, the expenses for the funeral of COVID-19 victims is borne by the family members of the victims.
Replying to a query made by the Imphal Free Press on the exorbitant charges for the funeral of COVID-19 victims and the state government’s failure to bear the expenses, Dr Rajo had made the November 20 announcement.
However, when asked, mortician Md Anwar Ali of Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC), who does most of the cremation work of COVID-19 victims, told the Imphal Free Press on Tuesday that as per the advice of concerned district deputy commissioners, he takes Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 from each victim family for buying material for cremation such as firewood, tyres, fuel and PPE among others. He also takes extra charges ranging around Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 for hiring labour to carry the COVID-19 victim body to the cremation place, Ali said.
Meanwhile, social and cultural activist Rakesh Naorem in Imphal also alleged the Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC) of charging funeral money ranging from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25, 000 for cremating the body of a COVID-19 victim.
When the public, mostly the daily wage earners, are facing a financial constraint due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unfortunate that the government continues to charge for the funeral of COVID-19 victims, Rakesh told media persons on Tuesday at Manipur Press Club, Imphal.
Pointing out that around 300 people have died due to COVID-19 related illness in the state, he said, “We do not want to make the funeral of COVID-19 victims an issue. The government needs to take appropriate steps considering the sufferings of the public”.
Urging against taking funeral charge, Rakesh appealed to the state government to make a special policy to help the families of COVID-19 victims.
Echoing the same concern, eminent theatre director Thaninleima has urged the Manipur government to immediately stop charging for funeral of COVID-19 victims.
Rakesh further drew the attention of the government to arrange a separate cremation centre for COVID-19 victims outside the municipal area as many neighbouring residents are complaining of the foul-smelling smoke emanating from the cremation.
Till today, Manipur has no separate burial or funeral place for cremating COVID-19 victims yet. The government has allotted land for burial and cremation of COVID-19 bodies on the foothills of Baruni, about 13 km away from Imphal city, according to official sources. However, the arrangement for the said purpose is yet to be processed.
According to the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) guidelines issued by the health department, the concerned district deputy commissioners have been directed to bear the expenses of the COVID-19 victims’ funeral. But, according to several reports, victim families, who are mostly poor, have to cough up the high amount being charged to them.
As the concerned deputy commissioners failed to bear the funeral expenses and following the Imphal Free Press query, the state health department director Rajo had announced that the department was working on the process of bearing the expenses of COVID-19 victim funeral. It also announced to refund the funeral money amount spent by family members of COVID-19 victims, numbering over 280 in the state. However, the funeral expenses are yet to be refunded to the victims’ families till today.