With only two CNG furnaces in Antim Niwas to carry out Covid funerals, people are now burning the dead on the pavements due to the additional rush
NOIDA: Between April 1 and 23, when the official death toll inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic stood at 137 in Gautam Budh Nagar, there were 1,185 cremations following Covid protocols at the two CNG furnaces in Antim Niwas, the crematorium‘s records show.
The two CNG furnaces at the crematorium in Noida’s Sector 94 are being used solely for Covid patients. Crematorium managers said most bodies were brought there from hospitals in Gautam Budh Nagar, and about 25% were from hospitals in neighbouring NCR districts like Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, Meerut, Mathura, Gurgaon, Faridabad, etc.
Cremation of Covid patients is being carried out using traditional ways too. This data is not captured in the number of cremations at the two CNG furnaces. Non-Covid cremations are also taking place at Antim Niwas, on the platforms meant for pyres.
From April 1 to 4pm on April 23, the number of people afflicted with Covid cremated in one of the CNG furnaces at Antim Niwas was 729. In the other furnace, there were 456 cremations in the same period. “We are cremating only Covid patients in the two existing CNG furnaces. However, some Covid patients are also being cremated using traditional ways when the furnaces are occupied or the family wants to perform the rituals,” an Antim Niwas official told TOI.
Till about two days ago, no family was turned away, irrespective of the location of the hospital from where the bodies came. “But we are overburdened now, and families of patients being brought from other districts are being discouraged,” another Antim Niwas official told TOI.
Asked how the crematorium ascertains if Covid protocols are to be followed for a deceased, Mahesh Saxena of Lok Manch – the NGO which runs Antim Niwas that is owned by the Noida Authority – said they go by the Covid report and hospital documents. “The families come with the Covid reports and reports of the cause of death. At times, there are patients who tested positive before death but at the time of death, the report was negative,” he said. Covid protocols are followed in such cases as well.
Gautam Budh Nagar district magistrate Suhas LY said that many of the deaths were being cross-notified to other districts and state surveillance officers. “In most districts, if you compare the data of deaths and the records of cremation grounds, you will find a difference,” he said.
“Initially, there used to be testing of bodies, but later, it was directed that all bodies should be cremated as per Covid norms and officials should not wait for the Covid report. At the cremation ground, you don’t know which body falls in which category. Hospitals and laboratories are handling the data since the data has been decentralised, unlike conspiracy theories that the data may be under-reported. Further, many cases would be removed from the portal because at the time of death, the deceased became non-Covid,” the DM added.
Suhas admitted that there could be one category of Covid deaths that “could not be captured”. “Another category can be those who came from outside the district. Those which came for tertiary care here from outside and died at a Covid hospital, that can be another category,” he said.
With crematoriums getting swamped, the Noida Authority has issued an order that people should use the cremation ground nearest to them.