Issues advisory to Centre, States after several bodies, suspected to be of COVID-19 victims, have been found floating in the Ganga
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Friday issued an advisory to the Centre and States on “upholding the dignity and protecting the rights of the dead” in view of the “large number of deaths during this second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges in management of the bodies.”
The advisory comes after several bodies, suspected to be of those who died of COVID-19, have been found floating in the Ganga in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the past few days.
The NHRC wrote to the Secretaries of the Union Home Affairs and Health and Family Welfare Ministries and Chief Secretaries of States to implement the recommendations.
“As of May 9, 2021, globally 32,96,841 people have died on account of COVID-19 pandemic whereas in India 2,42,398 people have lost their lives due to this deadly virus. Due to this record number of deaths, the process of management of dead bodies while adhering to the COVID safety protocol, transportation of bodies and their burial or cremation, etc., has become challenging,” the advisory said.
Despite various international and national guidelines, the “mismanagement” of COVID-19 affected bodies, thereby “lowering their dignity,” has been reported, it said.
The NHRC recommended that the government enact legislation to protect the rights of the dead and set up temporary crematoriums to reduce the delay in performing last rites being seen today.
‘Sensitise crematoria staff’
The advisory also said staff of crematoriums and burial grounds should be sensitised to ensure dignity while handling bodies.
“Further, they need to be provided necessary safety equipment and facilities so that they may perform their duty efficiently without any fear or risk … In cases where family members or relatives are not there to perform last rites as they themselves may be infected or are not willing being afraid of getting infected, etc., or where the repatriation of the body to the family may not be possible, the State/local administration may perform the last rites of the body, taking into account the religious/ cultural factors,” the advisory said.
The NHRC said bodies should not be piled up during transportation or at any other point and mass burials or cremations should not be allowed as it was a violation of the right to dignity of the dead.
The advisory said the State authorities must handle information about the dead and missing persons properly. It added that the prices of hearse or ambulance services should be regulated.
“Since the staff at crematoriums, burial grounds, mortuaries, etc., are working round the clock during this wave of pandemic, they may be paid fair wages to compensate their hard work. Further, they should be vaccinated on a priority basis keeping in view the risk they are exposed to,” the NHRC said.
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