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Indian state offers financial aid for funerals of Covid victims

Andhra Pradesh gives 15,000 rupees to families too poor to pay for services for their loved ones

Indian state offers financial aid for funerals of Covid victims

Health workers wearing personal protection equipment help patients at a banquet hall turned into a Covid-19 care center in New Delhi on May 18 after a surge in coronavirus cases. (Photo: AFP)

As some states in India face the challenge of performing funeral rites due to the financial crunch, the government of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh has decided to give financial assistance of 15,000 rupees (US$200) for the last rites of those who died of Covid-19.

The state government order passed on May 16 accorded permission to all district administrations to dispense 15,000 rupees to cover the funerals of victims of the contagion.

“It is indeed a great gesture from the Andhra government, especially the chief minister of the state, who understood the pain and agony people are facing during this pandemic. The fund is for all who cannot afford the funeral of their loved ones,” Father Anthoniraj Thumma, executive secretary of the Federation of Telugu Churches, told UCA News.

“If someone dies and their family cannot afford to give the final rites, they can approach the local body appointed by the government who will give them the money within a day or two.” 

The government has also taken care of children who are orphaned due to the pandemic and plans to deposit 1 million rupees that will be handed over to the orphan when he or she turns 25.

“Such monetary help is highly appreciated because when people are unable to perform funeral rites due to poverty, they are forced to immerse the dead body in rivers. Other states should follow Andhra’s initiative during this time when people are finding it hard to cope with the situation,” Father Thumma said.

Residents said they had spotted many bodies floating near the Gulabi Ghat in Patna, the state capital

Meanwhile, media reports said corpses were seen floating in the River Ganges in Uttar Pradesh's Ballia and Ghazipur districts on May 12. More than 90 bodies were seen floating at Ujiyar, Kulhadia and Bharauli in Ballia's Narahi area.

On May 14, 71 bodies were retrieved from the river in Bihar’s Buxar district. Residents said they had spotted many bodies floating near the Gulabi Ghat in Patna, the state capital.

According to a report by Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar on May 15, over 2,000 bodies were found on the banks of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh within a radius of 1,140 kilometers. 

Media reports also said the bodies of Covid victims were being dumped in the river after an overwhelmed government system neglected or delayed their dignified disposal.

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After the issue was highlighted in the media, the Uttar Pradesh government issued instructions prohibiting water burials, a ritual followed by some communities in which bodies are dumped in bodies of water such as the Ganges, which is considered holy by Hindus.

Meanwhile, according to the government on May 17, India has seen a decline in new Covid-19 cases but daily deaths remained above 4,000. However, the World Health Organization said the data was unreliable due to a lack of testing in rural areas.

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