The two priests and helper who take care of last rites of Covid patients at the crematorium near Dholewal Military Complex in Ludhiana.(HT Photo)
The two priests and helper who take care of last rites of Covid patients at the crematorium near Dholewal Military Complex in Ludhiana.(HT Photo)

Ludhiana priests cremating Covid patients can’t keep kitchen fire running

Not being paid by either the administration or the kin of the deceased; other residents also now preferring other cremation grounds for last rites of their dead
Hindustan Times, Ludhiana | By Mohit Khanna, Ludhiana
UPDATED ON MAY 08, 2020 09:42 PM IST

It’s double whammy for the two priests and their helper at the Ramgarhia crematorium near Dholewal Military Complex in Ludhiana.

Since the crematorium was chosen to perform the last rites of Covid-19 patients, residents have stopped utilising its services for their dead. Worse, the priests have not been paid for the six Covid-related cremations conducted here, neither by the family of the deceased nor by the district administration that arranged the last rites.

Having run into financial difficulties, the priests have now refused to cremate any more Covid-19 patients.

Four people who succumbed to coronavirus disease and two suspected patients have been cremated here so far.

One of the two priests, Pankaj Sharma, said he will not perform last rites of Covid patients in future.

“Neither the administration not the patients’ families offer us anything in return. On the other hand, other city residents have also stopped bringing their dead to our cremation ground, afraid of contracting the virus,” says Sharma, whose father was also a priest.

“It is our only source of living. Whatever the family of the dead offered us, helped to keep our kitchen fire burning. But, now we have run out of any means. If the situation persists how will we feed our families?” says Gurdev Singh, the other priest.

‘STAYING AWAY FROM FAMILIES’

The priests have also been staying away from their families for their safety. “I have visited home only once since the lockdown began, and even then I did not hug my two children. We have not been provided prophylactic (preventive) treatment. We also have no insurance cover. In such a situation, how can we continue to cremate the Covid-19 patients,” asked Pankaj.

Ranjodh Singh, president of Ramgarhia Educational Trust, that manages the crematorium, said he had written to the civic body commissioner to provide health cover to the people performing cremations.

Municipal commissioner Kanwalpreet Kaur Brar said, “Families should pay for the last rites of their deceased kin. It is unfortunate. I will raise the matter with the authorities concerned.”

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