At Nigambodh Ghat, two crematorium staff say COVID doesn't scare us at all now

New Delhi, Jun 24 (PTI) Fifty-five-years-old Harinder Prasad, who works at the crematorium of Nigambodh Ghat in north Delhi, says that he has disposed of his fear of coronavirus along with the bodies of COVID-19 patients that come in starch white bags.

His colleague Manoj Kumar is also inured to this new normal, but Pappu says, a sense of fear is still there within him, but he tries not to let it interfere with his job.

Nigambodh Ghat under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, has perhaps become the busiest cremation site in the national capital, in the wake of outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic which has claimed over 2,300 lives in Delhi.

Prasad, a resident of Bawana, has seen bodies after bodies reduce to ashes in the CNG-based crematorium, amid escalating number of cases that crossed the 66,000-mark on Tuesday.

'I know people are scared in general, and staff at cremation sites too feel apprehensive when they see bodies of COVID-19 patients that come from mortuaries. But, I have made my peace,' he told PTI.

'I don't feel any sense of fear at all, from seeing the bodies to disposing them of. And, if I meet this corona in flesh and blood, I am now even ready to square off against the virus that has wrecked havoc in the world,' Prasad says, exaggerating to make his point.

Kumar also said that fear is not a part of this job, and cremation in times of coronavirus is business as usual.

But, 39-year-old Pappu, who goes only by a single name, says initially there was a lot of fear due to the uncertainty around it.

'Now, we humans have learnt to somehow live with the virus, but a sense of fear is there inside of me, somewhere' he said.

Pappu, who has been working at Nigambodh Ghat for over 10 years, has a mother, wife, and three young children at home, and says he earns Rs 8,700 per month.

'I fear more for my family, whether I might transmit the infection or not, assuming I have been infected. I keep clothes separately for working and for going home in. And, after every cremation, we discard our PPE kits and dispose them of in the crematorium itself,' he added.

According to the guidelines on disposal of bodies by the Health Ministry, crematoria and burial ground staff should be sensitised and take care that COVID-19 does not pose any additional risk to them.

The situation of men in charge of dealing with the bodies of COVID-19 patients is also not very different at Jadid Qabrastan Ahle Islam in ITO, one of the designated graveyards to bury Muslims who have died of the disease.

Mohammad Shamim, the caretaker, said over 400 bodies affected by the coronavirus have been buried in the 50-acre graveyard since the outbreak in March.

At his humble home adjoining the graves, he tries to keep a distance from his family members -- wife and four girls.

'I have learned to deal with this coronavirus crisis, at my job and at home, emotionally,' he said.

Shamim said Rs 4100 is charged for burial from the family of the deceased.

'Once an Afghani man had come for the burial of his son, who was infected by COVID-19. The man was 65-years-old and his grandson was too young, so I got the burial done. Families are finding it very difficult to deal with deaths in this time,' he said. PTI KND AS  AAR AAR