Odisha: Officials helping conduct of last rites in absence of fear-struck kin

Berhampur: People are taking the help of police and the government officials for performing the last rites of their even non-COVID deceased family members as relatives and neighbours are staying away fearing infection in coronavirus affected Ganjam district, officials said on Monday.

The state government has allowed gathering of a maximum of 20 people at the crematorium, but even relatives and neighbours are reluctant to attend funerals due to coronavirus anxiety.

“COVID-scare has gripped people in Ganjam due to a large number of cases,” district officials said. Ganjam has reported maximum 5,527 confirmed cases in Odisha, where the tally of positive patients stands at 18,110 as per the latest count.

Of the total 97 COVID-19 fatalities in the state, a whopping 59 are from Ganjam.

A 45-year-old man, Narendra Raul, died due to diarrhoea at his residence in Godarapalli village last Saturday, while her 75-year-old mother, Jambhu, died of shock after coming to know about the incident.

Their family members had no option but to seek assistance from local administration as villagers, even close relatives or friends, did not come forward to help them perform the last rites, Hinjili block development officer (BDO) PK Patra said.

“We rushed to the village along with the hearse vehicles of the Hinjili Municipality for the cremation of the bodies, after they sought help from us,” he said.

A family member of the deceased said villagers were afraid of getting infected with COVID-19 and hence not eager to attend funerals even if it is not linked to the virus.

The BDO said the family members claimed that the two had no symptom of the coronavirus.

In another incident, an elderly mother in Golapada village waited for 15 hours with the dead body of her 50- year-old daughter, Sanjukta Pradhan, who died due to heart attack, before the Bhanjanagar police station officials arranged for her cremation.

According to the villagers, the deceased, a widow, was staying with her parents in the locality.

Recently, her father, a COVID-19 patient, was admitted to a local hospital, though the woman and her mother tested negative for the disease, they said.

“People simply stayed away from her funeral out of fear of the virus,” a villager said.

“We tried to convince the villagers following which some of them came forward to help cremate the body. They were provided with PPEs to perform the last rites,” Bhanjanagar police station inspector-in-charge SK Sahoo said.


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