A heavy price to pay for the dead
IFP Editorial: If the body is to be cremated in common cremation ground at Minuthong by the Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC) then the family members have to pay a sum of Rs 15,000.
As the pandemic is causing chaos in the Hindu heartland, stories of unspeakable misery abound. Too many are dying and everywhere the crematoriums are overflowing with no place to cremate their near and dear ones for many, while families who are too poor to buy wood for cremating the dead simply push them into the Ganga. Last week, bodies started piling up along its banks. Some were cremated by villagers or buried in shallow graves, others rotted in the sun and got eaten by dogs and vultures, as seen from the ground reports of journalists in the field. Death is a terrible tragedy to the bereaved family members and friends. But to the one who died it is the end of his or her worries, however painful the Covid journey had been. Being a small state with a population of about 30 lakhs, the overall deaths since the first wave as of Sunday is nearing 600. However, 20 deaths on a single day caused us to panic, although the problem of lack of crematorium space is yet to reach us. On the other hand, the daily number of positive cases since May 3 has been fluctuating from 16 pc to 22 pc.
But, Monday percentage has come down to 12.95. The daily surge had been 400-700 and somehow it is a relief that it has come down to 330 on Monday.
Perhaps, the dip in daily surge could be because of the lockdown. But still, we must not be complacent. And, we must not deny that we were caught unawares by the second wave and also experiencing the scarcity of medical oxygen and deaths due to lack of oxygen supply, lack of hospital beds and ambulance services or critical care units and ventilators, as faced elsewhere in the country.
However, from the look of things something seems to be missing in focus or action. For instance, it is rather strange that the state chose to step back on the issue of hospital admission by relegating it to the hospital authorities again after trying to centralise it. We are still in the dark as to who advised the powers that be to centralise it in the first place. The top bureaucrats could have seen the problems of centralising hospital admission and advised the political leadership accordingly. Is it really the case or is it about the political leadership not listening to the bureaucratic advice? Surely, something is amiss. A few days back, hospital administrators clarified that delay in admission and treatment of COVID-19 patients in the hospital could be the reason behind the increase in the death rate of COVID-19 patients in Manipur.
Now add to the burden of the bereaved families due to the absence of community participation in the grief, another problem on the costs of cremation. During the first wave of COVID-19, the expenses for cremation of COVID-19 patients’ bodies were taken care of by the concerned deputy commissioners. In the second wave, the expenses for cremation of the dead bodies of COVID-19 victims have been charged to the family members. If a person succumbs to COVID-19 in a hospital, the hospital authority should contact the respective deputy commissioner of the district where the deceased person belongs. According to the consent of the family members, the body will be cremated either at a common cremation ground or at their locality. For cremation in the locality, a ‘No Objection Certificate’ is required from the respective local organisations where the body is to be cremated. There are two rates on the charges of cremation. If the body is to be cremated in common cremation ground at Minuthong by the Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC) then the family members have to pay a sum of Rs 15,000. For cremation in a local crematorium, the family members need to carry the expenses of all the materials to be used at the time of cremation. For that, IMC employees will cremate the body and family members have to pay Rs 8,000 as cremation charges.
After the anxiety and turmoil at the hospital including costs, it is simply too much for poor families to dole out the costs of cremation which is prohibitive to them. There is still the expense for rites of passage ceremonies to come, with no social contribution as had been the practice. So for the sake of God, the state should do away with the costs of cremation for the poor families.