May 16, 2020
Introduction: Fifty-five-year-old Dr Simon Hercules had devoted his life to treating patients, but when he died on April 19, after testing positive for COVID-19, the society this neurosurgeon served for decades failed him big time. It is so sad to tell he was denied a decent burial at two different cemeteries while his colleagues and family members were attacked with stones.
A 75-year-old woman died of coronavirus on April 23 forcing the authorities and the police to cremate the body outside the city amid tight police security despite opposition from the residents in the early hours of April 24.
COVID–19 is not sweet consolation or solacing but a bitter and harsh pill to swallow. It attacks the people without counting the age status, caste, creed, religion, education party, position and power. It is not the mistake, miscalculation or misconception of the individual who is affected by it. Today is not the right time to evaluate or blame anybody but to put hands and resources together, make the scientists, medical professionals ASHA workers and police departments perform their task and duty without any hindrance and hitch. We need to cooperate with the rules and regulations of the Government of India and the state, especially listen ardently and actively to the local administration.
Aspiration or desire of a person: Every child who was born in this galaxy expects a polite, proper, prudent burial or cremation in whatever the circumstance one encounters. It is the bounden duty of the family members to fulfill the heart’s desire to give a decent burial /cremation, especially in this agony, anguish, sorrow struck shift.
COVID-19: Guidelines on dead body management by the Government of India:
• At the crematorium/ burial ground, the crematorium/ burial ground staff should be sensitized that COVID- 19 does not pose additional risk.
• The staff will practice standard precautions of hand hygiene, use of masks and gloves.
• Viewing of the dead body by unzipping the face end of the body bag (by the staff using standard precautions) may be allowed, for the relatives to see the body for one last time.
• Religious rituals such as reading from religious scripts, sprinkling holy water and any other last rites that do not require touching the body can be allowed. Bathing, kissing, hugging, etc of the dead body should not be allowed.
• The funeral/burial staff and family members should perform hand hygiene after cremation/ burial.
• The ash does not pose any risk and can be collected to perform the last rites.
• Large gathering at the crematorium/burial ground should be avoided as a social distancing measure as it is possible that close family contacts may be symptomatic and/or shedding the virus.
Constitution of India speaks of dignity and fair burial/cremation: The right to life is the most cornerstone and fundamental of the rights and is also the most difficult to define, thus it cannot be conferred to a guarantee against the taking away of life. It must have a wider application. This includes the expansion of this right to the dead people that is protecting the body of the dead and treating it with dignity, which it was accustomed to before the death.
The Supreme Court through various cases has held that the right to dignity and fair treatment under Article 21 of the Constitution of India is not only available to a living man but also his body after her/his death and the word and expression 'person' in Article 21, would include a dead person in a limited sense and that his rights to her/his life which includes her/his right to live with human dignity, to have an extended meaning to treat her/his dead body with respect, which s/he would have deserved, had s/he been alive subject to her/his tradition, culture and the religion, which s/he professed. This further imposes a duty on the state to ensure that the same is being adhered to.
Sentiments of the family members of the deceased or departed person: What are the sentiments of the family members carrying a dead body of their beloved from pillar to post for a decent cremation or burial? Did anybody give serious thought to it while objecting to the cremation or burial of the body? S/he may be a member of my family. What are the feelings of my own? How do I feel, I am sure these feelings could not be understood or presumed by the people who object to giving a decent burial or cremation. This is the time to think and reflect the human values, vibrations and collaborations and not my might, right and priority.
What is the understanding of the people: Today, people are anxious, scared, startled and they have very limited knowledge about the infection of COVID-19. Paying respect, reverence and tribute to the dead body must be the first and foremost Human Dharma. The administration cannot shift the dead body from place to place for the last rite and ritual to perform. If so it shows the absurdity or apathy of the people or in large, the mentality or mindset of the society.
Conclusion: Today he or she, tomorrow I or somebody else has to leave the world maybe by saying adieu or without saying. This dead body for several reasons has to be appreciated honoured and respected. What a shame to hear the administration is looking for a place to cremate/bury? We are known or publicly acknowledged or proclaimed for decency, dignity and decorum. If so, where do we bury, cover or hide our astute, intelligent wisdom when it is most needed? Need of the hour.