Social group in Pune ensures dignified farewell to Covid-19 victims
A social welfare group is working round-the-clock with the Pune civic body to give a dignified farewell to COVID-19 victims, irrespective of their religion, and claimed to have performed the last rites of over 1,200 victims since the pandemic began last year.
The organisation comprises about 40 members, including some auto-rickshaw drivers and mobile technicians, in the age group of 22 to 64 years.
A senior group member said their workload has increased during the current second wave of COVID-19.
"We have been helping conduct the last rites of COVID-19 victims, irrespective of their religion, for the last 14 to 15 months. So far, we have buried or cremated over 1,200 victims in Pune city and adjoining villages in the Maharashtra district," Ummat Foundation member Javed Khan told PTI.
"Many a times, family members or relatives are unable to come, but we ensure that the last rites are conducted with all respect and as per their tradition," Khan said.
He said the number of deaths due to COVID-19 has increased in the second wave of the viral infection, and their group members are now working 24X7.
Two days ago, they got a call about the death of an elderly member of a Brahmin family, which was in isolation after contracting the viral infection, he said.
"Our volunteers in PPE kits reached there with a body bag, brought the mortal remains to a crematorium and conducted the last rites as per their rituals," he said.
Sharfuddin Shaikh (64), the oldest member of the group, said their work was all about "humanity" and the objective was to give the dead person a decent farewell in the absence of relatives and loved ones.
"On many occasions, when family members of the deceased cannot make it to the crematorium or burial ground as they are in quarantine, we arrange video calls for them while performing the last rites," he said.
Shaikh said that late Sunday evening, they received a call from Talegaon town, located about 35 km from here, about a COVID-19 victim's death.
"Since the family members were unable to perform the burial, they requested us to help them. We rushed to the hospital, collected the body, performed the burial in Talegaon and returned to Pune city around 3 am on Monday," he said.
Asked how they are managing while fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Shaikh said the Almighty was providing them strength to continue the humanitarian work.