Workers in PPE kits take dead body of Covid-19 victim for cremation at Yerwada crematorium in Pune. (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
Workers in PPE kits take dead body of Covid-19 victim for cremation at Yerwada crematorium in Pune. (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)

PMC, PCMC cremation count continues to belie administration’s death toll

Indian Council for Medical Research, Central Health Ministry and WHO consider the state health department’s data, which differs from numbers provided by the PMC or the district health office
By Manasi Deshpande and Jigar Hindocha
UPDATED ON APR 26, 2021 04:14 PM IST

The number of Covid-19 fatalities being cremated in Pune and neighbouring Pimpri-Chinchwad for the past two weeks, has far outnumbered the official death toll being reported by the state health department.

Officials from Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) involved in monitoring the crematoria claimed that 170 bodies have been cremated each day in the past one week.

Of these 170 bodies, 120, on average, are Covid victims, the official said.

This is in sharp contrast to the 11 deaths that the state health department reported on Saturday in Pune city, or the 23 deaths in Pune district.

The PMC on the other hand reported 55 Covid deaths in the city.

On Sunday, the state health department reported 47 fatalities in Pune, while PMC reported 55 deaths.

The Indian Council for Medical Research, Central Health Ministry and WHO consider the state health department’s data, which differs from numbers provided by the PMC or the district health office.

Municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar denied there is mismatch in the PMC death count and cremation figures. “In the PMC report, we always show the PMC-plus-outside figures also. Cremations are happening of people who died in Pune city.

“In the report we are showing the deaths of PMC residents. In our report we clarify that every day. We will check both the numbers,” said Kumar.

On April 20, HT had reported that over a few days a total 150 cremations have happened in the city, of which, 100 were Covid cases.

“There is an immense load on the crematoria due to Covid deaths. Daily cremations of Covid bodies have gone up to 110-120 per day. This number includes all deaths from all faiths. Bodies received from Sassoon hospital alone account for an average of 45-50 cremations per day,” said Shrinivas Kandul, head of PMCs electric department and man incharge of crematoria.

Kandul is also tasked with coordination for last rites of Covid-19 bodies.

In pre-Covid period, there used to be 80-90 cremations in a day, said Kandul

In the past week there has been a waiting period of at least five-six hours for cremation in Pune. To ease the burden, civic body has already roped in all the 21 crematoria in city.

To facilitate the process further, PMC has started an online process to issue a cremation pass to relatives of the deceased. “We are hoping this will ease the process. Earlier, all the people used to call two numbers and PMC had to note down all the details in order to issue the pass.

“Now it can be filled online and a pass code is sent to a relative’s phone. They can take the body to the nearest crematorium and last rites can be performed. This has reduced the waiting period,” said Shrinivas Kandul.

Numbers do not add up in PCMC

The situation is no different in Pimpri-Chinchwad where out of 40 crematoria five have been allotted for cremations of Covid bodies.

According to data available from PCMC administration, between April 1-24, a total of 622 patients have died due to the Covid-19 infection. Numbers coming in from crematoria paint a different picture. From April 1-24, as many as 1,820 bodies have been cremated at PCMC crematoria designated for Covid.

According to registered numbers at the four dedicated Covid crematoria in PCMC – 743 bodies have been cremated at Nehru Nagar, 601 in Bhosari, 358 in Nigdi, and 118 in Sangvi; all in April.

“A person who has died due to Covid is denoted by the letter ‘K’. The death is registered in the PCMC record next day, so the number of deaths registered in the crematorium register and the PCMC record varies,” said a doctor from PCMC health department, on condition of anonymity. Firms managing crematoria in PCMC limits have been feeling the load.

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