A sanitation worker by profession, 35-year old Munna works at the Baikunth Dham electric crematorium in Lucknow and has conducted the last rites of over 700 Covid victims during the last six months.
When most workers were scared of handling bodies of Covid victims, he was the first one to come forward for the last rites of the infected bodies, said Dilip Dey, zonal officer, Lucknow municipal corporation (LMC).
“Since April, he has cremated over 700 Covid victims. Munna and his team have also not taken a single day’s leave in this period. The Baikunth Dham electric crematorium receives 12 to 17 bodies every day, even from outside Lucknow. Each cremation takes around 45 minutes. So, the staff works till 8pm,” he said.
“We trained Munna and two other staff members on how to handle Covid bodies and use PPE kits. We also advised them to remain polite and humane towards everyone coming with Covid victims’ bodies,” added Dey.
Munna said, “It’s a job, which God has chosen for me and I am not ashamed of it. I am cremating those who died from Covid at a time, when people are maintaining distance from each other.”
“I am a high school pass-out, so I understand the difference between bacteria and virus. Despite the risks involved, I decided to conduct the last rites of Covid victims because my family members always told me that it is the only way to make a contribution to society,” he said.
He added that he is prepared to go the extra mile to respect the sentiments of the bereaved families, often running a grave risk to his own health.
“As per Hindu rituals, every family member wants to see the face of the deceased family member. But in case of a Covid death, opening of the cover is not allowed. But I usually take the risk of showing the face of the victim to family members when the body is pushed into the incinerator. But I take full precautions as I too have a family back home.”
Munna said he felt sad when people didn’t recognize his contribution to the fight against Covid.
“They think a sanitation worker is destined to do this. Sometimes, people even abuse us when we ask them to wait for their turn for cremation. But we never lose our temper as we are trained to handle their anger.”
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“I put on my first PPE kit at 6am, when the first body is brought here and change it twice till 8pm. I avoid consuming food during the day time, but sometimes I have to eat after taking precautions. Usually, I keep having water to hydrate myself as we cremate 12 to 17 bodies every day,” he added.
Munna said his wife lives with his father, mother, brother and sister in Jankipuram. “I don’t want my family members to get infected, so I stay at the crematorium ground 24×7. But sometimes when I feel like seeing my family, I visit Jankipuram and meet my family from a distance,” he said.
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“I appreciate the contribution of Munna and his team. They have responded to the challenge amid the pandemic. I compliment them for following all Covid protocols. The electric crematorium is getting Covid bodies not only from Lucknow but also from adjacent districts. He has handled this pressure without taking any leave,” said Ram Nagina Tripathi, chief engineer of LMC’s rubbish removal department.