The city of Indore in Madhya Pradesh is now facing a peculiar kind of crisis amidst the COVID-19 outbreak amidst an abrupt rise in the number of dead bodies brought to the four major Muslim graveyards in the city. While 130 dead bodies were brought to these graveyards in the entire month of March, a whopping 127 bodies were brought only in the first six days of the ongoing month of April.
Meanwhile, there has not been any such abrupt rise in the number of dead bodies brought to crematoriums and other graveyards. The spike in the number of dead bodies has been registered from the graveyards situated in the Coronavirus hotspots of the city.
Bhaskar has given a graveyard-wise breakup of the number of dead bodies brought to the respective graveyards. In the Mahu Naka graveyard, 46 dead bodies were brought last month but 42 bodies were brought only till April 5 in the ongoing month. Similarly, the number of dead bodies brought to the Ranipura graveyard stood at 20 for the entire month of March, but the same number of dead bodies were brought to the graveyard by April 5 itself, that is, in less than a week
In Khajrana graveyard too, there is a substantial rise in the rate at which bodies have been brought for burial in the ongoing month. Last month, a total of 28 bodies were brought to the graveyard, but in this month 21 bodies were brought by the fifth day of the month.
The most worrying case however is that of the Tatpatti Bakhal graveyard- it is situated in the same area where a team of health workers was attacked by a rampaging mob, after the health workers arrived in the area to check for Coronavirus suspects and to save their lives.
The mobs again were blood-thirsty and hurling pathetic abuses at health workers, including women health workers. The huge mobs made the health workers run for their lives and at one point you can hear someone asking for “hot water”, which may even be a reference to acid, as the mobs are ready to go to any extent in order to keep the Tablighi Jamaat attendees untraced.
At 57 sec rioter is asking for hot water, perhaps to throw on medical workers. Pathetic!!! https://t.co/TGVlzO8OPK
— Vikas Pandey (@MODIfiedVikas) April 1, 2020
This lady. This health worker who is risking it all for us says the mob wouldn't have left her alive had there been no police forces.
So much for women safety? Mob lynching outrage gang, how can you be such shameless hypocrites to skip this? pic.twitter.com/87M2lbCYKW
— Akshay Narang (@akshaynarang96) April 2, 2020
The same area had later become a Coronavirus hotspot in Indore with reports of 10 people testing positive from the area days after the mobbing of health workers. The graveyard here has now reported one of the steepest rises in the number of dead bodies that have been brought for burial in the first week of the ongoing month.
By April 5, 44 dead bodies were already buried at the Tatpatti Bakhal graveyard as opposed to the modest number of 36 bodies that were brought in all of March.
The entire chronology- resistance against authorities, the attack on health workers, followed by a rise in positive Coronavirus cases and finally an abrupt rise in the number of dead bodies coming to the graveyard, reveal how there may be a far greater number of Coronavirus deaths than the official number of 13 such deaths in Indore.
This is where the attack on health workers at Tatpatti Bakhal becomes quite worrisome. If there is a cultural/ ideological challenge involved in COVID-19 testing, then isn’t it entirely possible that a number of positive cases would have gone untested and untraced? The sudden rise in the number of dead bodies coming to the four major graveyards can also be attributed to the possibility of untraced cases succumbing to the novel Wuhan virus.
The increase in the number of dead bodies landing at the Muslim graveyards also coincides perfectly with the identification of 59 Tablighi Jamaat workers from Indore, who had attended the gathering of 8,000 preachers at the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid in the Nizamuddin area of South Delhi- the global centre for Tablighi Network last month.
The gathering has caused a speak in the number of cases across several states such as Assam, Tamil Nadu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Kashmir, Telangana and Maharashtra. And now it seems that the state of Madhya Pradesh hasn’t been able to escape from the Tablighi Jamaat fiasco either.
Moreover, according to Jagran, there has also been a case where the deceased had shown symptoms and also had a travel history, yet even his samples were not taken. After he succumbed, even his samples were not taken, which brings us to the issue of the possible cases of people dying due to COVID-19 in Indore but still getting buried in ordinary graveyards, and that too without any precautions.
It must be kept in mind that one who dies due to Coronavirus cannot be buried like any other deceased, and in fact, in China, the National Health Commission of China had ruled that those who perished to the novel Wuhan virus would be cremated immediately, instead of being buried.
Even if a burial has to take place, it must take place in accordance with set guidelines. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued specific guidelines which provide that there should be at least 30 metres away from groundwater source 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.
In India too, the Health Ministry has issued guidelines, in conjunction with the aforementioned WHO guidelines, for the body management of a COVID-19 deceased victim. These guidelines aim to minimise the possibility of infection spreading from a dead body to those who attend the last rites, especially because it is still unclear as to how long the Chinese virus stays in a dead body.
The local police must step it up and investigate the sudden challenge posed by the increasing number of dead bodies from Coronavirus hotspots. It is a ticking time bomb if possibly infected dead bodies are buried without following proper guidelines for managing COVID-19 dead bodies. Before we know, Indore might end up facing a huge challenge of graveyards becoming the new Coronavirus clusters, managing which will be a peculiarly uphill task and a logistical nightmare.