At a time when Maharashtra continues to be the epicentre of the Wuhan virus in India, the Maharashtra government is busy attempting to be politically correct. When the Shiv Sena controlled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s chief Praveen Pardeshi issued a circular that all the bodies of the victims of the Wuhan virus should be cremated irrespective of the religion, it sent alarm bells ringing in the Maha Vikas Aghadi. President of Mumbai NCP and state cabinet Minister Nawab Malik quickly intervened and forced the BMC to withdraw the circular prohibiting burial.
The Uddhav Thackeray government has yet again surrendered to Sharad Pawar and his party. In a sign of who actually controls the Maharashtra government — the BMC was forced to withdraw a circular prohibiting burial. BMC Chief Praveen Paredeshi stated that: “ All bodies of #COVID19 patients should be cremated irrespective of religion. Burial will not be allowed. The funeral should not involve more than 5 people.”
Now appeasements on these issues also. When you elect leader like Nawab Malik you are bound to face situation like this. pic.twitter.com/CpgezZMDoN
— Rajeev Panday (@RKpanday1977) March 30, 2020
Just a few hours later NCP leader and state cabinet minister Nawab Malik after speaking to Pardeshi took to Twitter to announce that the BMC circular has now been withdrawn.
This is to bring to your kind attention that I have spoken to @mybmc Commissioner Mr. Praveen Pardeshi regarding the circular issued by him for cremation of those who have lost their lives due to the #CoronaVirus.
The said circular has now been withdrawn.
— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) March 30, 2020
The BMC where the NCP has a meagre 9 out of the total 227 seats has still managed to have its way. It seems that Uddhav Thackeray has sacrificed everything for the post of Chief Minister as it has become increasingly clear that Maharashtra is firmly controlled by Sharad Pawar’s NCP.
It is appalling to see that even in the face of a pandemic, the Maharashtra government is practising minority appeasement. Now the WHO has allowed the burial of the victims of the Wuhan virus albeit with strict conditions. It is a separate thing that the WHO claimed in January that there is no evidence of community transmission of the Wuhan virus and castigated countries who decided to restrict the flights from China.
The WHO guidelines state that graveyards should be at least 30 metre from groundwater sources used for drinking water with grave floors being at least 1.5 m above the water table, with a 0.7 m unsaturated zone. Apart from the process of disinfecting and procuring a thick coffin, the guidelines specifically state that the surface water from graveyards must not enter inhabited areas. It goes without saying that there will be grave consequences if the surface water enters the inhabited areas.
AIIMS too has listed out a specific set of guidelines and have stated that for conducting the last rites of the victims of the Wuhan virus cremation-especially electric or CNG-run should be preferred. The forensic medicine department of the AIIMS, New Delhi has drafted a new protocol which states that, “For last rites, cremation should be preferred for the complete elimination of chances of infection in either electric or gas crematorium in a zipped body bag. However, keeping in mind the religious views of the family, if the burial of the body is requested, then it should be assured that the body is buried in a thick, airtight coffin.” The protocol further adds that the body needs to be buried at a depth of 4-6 feet and should be cemented immediately as an additional precautionary measure.
Recently, Shia Central Waqf Board chairman Waseem Rizvi said, “If a Muslim person dies due to COVID-19 infection, the dead body should be burnt in the electric machines available in the crematorium so that the deadly virus also gets killed.” He added that if the pandemic intensifies in India, the Shia Waqf Board would take a call on whether the Muslim bodies should be buried or burnt in kabristan (Muslim cemeteries).
Now, Rizwi also seems to have understood how cremation of dead bodies can play a critical role in case the Pandemic picks up in India, and therefore he is laudably putting health and nation above religious tenets. He added, “Irrespective of religion, all people should stand together in the fight against coronavirus,” and made it clear that brotherhood among different religious communities is indispensable in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
Now while burial is allowed for the victims of the Wuhan virus victims, the stringent guidelines are unlikely to be followed thus increasing the risk of the virus infection other people. Anyone who resides in Mumbai would know that such graveyards who meet the WHO guidelines are rare as the city grapples with severe space issues. The guidelines are even more unlikely to be followed if the death count increases. Perhaps BMC Chief Praveen Pardeshi also realises this fact and hence issued the circular allowing only cremation for the victims of the Wuhan virus.
Unfortunately, the Maha Vikas Aghadi has yet again place minority appeasement over the safety of the state’s population.