A family in Amritsar, Punjab, refused to perform the last rites of a man after he died of Covid-19, The Tribune reported on Wednesday. The 65-year-old man, identified as Jaswinder Singh, was a retired superintending engineer of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation.
Singh died two days after he tested positive for the coronavirus at the Government Medical College. The district authorities tried contacting Singh’s daughter who is a medical student. However, she did not respond to the administration’s request to attend the cremation ceremony, Sub Divisional Magistrate Vikas Heera told newspaper.
Eventually, Heera, along with Assistant Commissioner of Police Jaspreet Singh, tehsildar Archana, station house officer Gurinder Singh, and the staff of Amritsar district administration, went to the crematorium at Gurdwara Shaheedan Sahib road to light the pyre, according to The Times of India. None of the family members came to attend the cremation ceremony.
In another incident in Ludhiana, the district administration had to step in and perform the last rites of a 69-year-old woman who died of Covid-19, after her family refused to perform the funeral. In Amritsar, residents of Verka village did not allow the cremation of Padma Shri recipient and former Golden temple Hazuri Raagi Bhai Nirmal Singh Khalsa.
Funeral rituals in India are being dramatically changed by the coronavirus pandemic as families in various parts of the country have refused to perform the last rites of their relatives over the fear of the spread of the Covid-19 infection.
According to the new guidelines for disposal of bodies that were issued by the Centre on March 15, funerals are now limited to 20 or fewer attendees. The guidelines also prohibit bathing or embalming the corpse of a Covid-19 patients and ban relatives from kissing or hugging the body to avoid any risk of transmitting the virus.
Meanwhile, Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Shivdular Singh Dhillon said the cremation process poses no risk to the family as proper protocol is followed. “People should respect their loved ones who die of the disease,” said Dhillon.
Several village accountants, or patwaris, in villages of Punjab have been at the forefront of performing the last rites of Covid-19 patients after their families refused to do it. In Moranwali village of Hoshiarpur district, village official Jagir Singh said he faced several challenges in arranging the funeral of a local religious leader. “The village had been sealed,” he told The Tribune. “No one was even ready to give us the wood for the pyre. The victim’s son, who was also tested positive, was made to wear protective gear before lighting the pyre.”
The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 5,194 on Tuesday morning, with 149 deaths, the Union Health Ministry said. This is the biggest jump in both the number of cases and deaths.