Two months on, Bengaluru crematorium workers get shut-eye as COVID fatalities come down in city

Ever since the second wave of Covid-19 hit, workers at graveyards and crematoriums in Bengaluru had been working tirelessly for 18 to 20 hours every day.

Published: 06th June 2021 03:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th June 2021 04:46 PM   |  A+A-

Photo | Ashishkrishna HP

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Ever since the second wave of Covid-19 hit, workers at graveyards and crematoriums in Bengaluru had been working tirelessly for 18 to 20 hours every day.

But with the number of deaths coming down over the last few days, they are now heaving a sigh of relief.

In May, the state witnessed over 550 daily deaths across the State, with Bengaluru alone recording about 350 deaths.

In Bengaluru, there are 12 electric crematoriums i  with two furnaces each. Of  the 12, seven are earmarked for cremation of Covid victims.

In Bengaluru, there are 148 people working at crematoriums and graveyards.

Raju, who used to work at the Kalpalli graveyard, one of the biggest graveyards in Karnataka, said he was deputed to the electric crematorium in Hebbal where sometimes, one of the two furnaces would stop working due to overload.

“We would get around 25 bodies in a day. We need at least one hour for a body to burn after which the furnace has to be cleaned and the next one taken in. We used to come at 7 am and end up working till about 2 am. For the last two months, we couldn’t even have dinner on time. But, over the last three to four days, we are winding up by 9 pm as the number of bodies coming to our crematorium has reduced. I return home by 11 pm and have dinner with my family, which I was missing all these days,’’ he said. Most days, they even skipped breakfast.

“We used to start the day with just one cup of tea at 7 am,’’ he said.

Explaining their trauma, Raju said many of the dead were aged between 25 and 45.

“It was such a sad state to see grieving parents and family members every day who would come for cremation. I have even done the cremation of a month-old baby,’’ he said.

Most of them are contract workers and their previous generations too were in the same profession.

“I have been working for the last 15 years. Both my father and grandfather worked at graveyards. None of them had faced this kind of work pressure,’’ Nagaraju, another worker, said.

“Though my grandfather would talk about the plague, Covid deaths have broken all the records, which is depressing,’’ he said.

They would sleep three hours a day on most days last month.

“Now, with cases declining, we are able to sleep for six to seven hours a day,’’ he said.

Ravi, who works at the Sumanahalli crematorium, took his first dose of the vaccine this week. According to him, since April , they have cremated more than 1,600 bodies at their crematorium alone.

“I have not gone home. My aged parents, wife and children stay at home and I have not seen them for many days. I am scared to go home as I work here,’’ he said. 


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