The existing graveyards in the rapidly-growing satellite city are unable to handle the growing number of Covid-19 victims that are brought for burial daily
By Ashok Kumar
NAVI MUMBAI – As the number of Covid-19 victims soars in Mumbai’s satellite city, and with a sharp rise in the number of bodies being brought in from neighbouring places, activists have urged the state government to give land for a new and bigger graveyard.
Responding to the plea of many groups that have been helping in disposing of the spurt in bodies, mainly victims of Covid-19, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has directed his officials to initiate moves for allocating land for a new and bigger graveyard.
“The existing graveyards in Navi Mumbai are small and cannot accommodate the victims of Covid-19,” Mohammed Salim Shaikh, chairman, Muslim Ekta Foundation told Clarion India on Thursday. “With a spurt in the number of Covid-19 victims, many more bodies are being brought in.”
According to him, Covid-19 victims have to be buried in a larger plot of 10×4 (40 sq ft) unit as against the usual 18 sq ft burial units. So this would require more space for burial.
Muslim Ekta Foundation and Natconnect Foundation, another Navi Mumbai-based organisation, have sought a 5-acre plot in the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) area in the eastern part of Navi Mumbai for the new cremation ground.
BN Kumar, director, NatConnect Foundation, told this correspondent that the sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 victims has resulted in most of the half a dozen burial grounds in Navi Mumbai getting full. Usually, a body is buried for a year before the space is used for a new one that has come in.
However, the Covid-19 crisis has seen a virtual rush of bodies to Navi Mumbai, as even the graveyards in Mumbai are full. Sadly, many of the bodies remain unclaimed and the officials send them to Navi Mumbai for burial.
“The rush for burial in Navi Mumbai is increasing sharply,” points out Kumar. “We decided to approach the chief minister as the MIDC land is now virtually barren and there are no quarrying operations happening there.”
The number of Covid-19 cases in Navi Mumbai breached the 10,000-mark on Wednesday and about 3,600 patients are in various hospitals in the satellite city. Nearly 320 people have succumbed to Covid-19 in Navi Mumbai so far.
The six Muslim graveyards in Navi Mumbai have seen the burial of 430 bodies since January, with Covid-19 accounting for a large number of the victims. But the graveyards are small, varying between 1,500 sq m and 3,000 sq m, and are inadequate for the growing number of victims, says Kumar.
And the existing graveyards are unable to cope with the rising number of bodies that are brought there. “We have given instructions to all the six graveyards under the management of Muslims not to reject any bodies and extend all assistance to people of any religion,” adds Shaikh.
Adding to the woes of the graveyards is the fact that many of the bodies are unclaimed with some of the relatives virtually abandoning them, fearing that they will contract the disease. The police too bring in many unidentified bodies including those of accident victims.
“But we do not mind since ultimately we are born to serve the needy from any class, creed or religion,” he points out. “We do the burials for free.”
Incidentally, in view of the spurt in the number of Covid-19 cases in Navi Mumbai, the state government replaced Annasaheb Misal as the municipal commissioner, bringing in Abhijit Bangar, who was the additional commissioner of Nagpur division.
Another issue that has surfaced in Navi Mumbai is the virtual absence of pathological laboratories to diagnose whether a person is infected with the Covid-19 virus. “There are no public or municipal corporation-owned labs in Navi Mumbai and patients have to send the samples all the way to Mumbai,” explains Kumar. “We have asked the new municipal commissioner for new labs here.”
Private laboratories in Mumbai charge Rs2,800 or more for the tests and many of the poor are unable to pay such hefty sums, he adds.