With a total of more than 1,50,000 coronavirus cases, Pune has become the epicentre of the virus fueling the infection rate in the state of Maharashtra.
A serosurvey revealed that the infection rate has reached almost up to 65 per cent in some pockets of the city against 57 per cent being reported from the capital, Mumbai.
The survey was conducted in the five worst-hit wards of Yerawada, Lohiyanagar-Kasewadi, Rastapeth-Ravivarpeth, Kasbapeth-Somwarpeth and Navipeth-Parvati, where the total population stood at 3.66 lakh.
The rise in the number of caseloads has also led to an increase in the number of patients succumbing to the deadly disease which has also been posing challenges for the city's municipal corporations striving to perform the last rites following the COVID-19 protocol.
There have also been instances where the families of the coronavirus patients or the ones suspecting the disease have disowned the body due to the fear of transmission of the infection or refused to perform the last rites for the safety of their lives.
Several media reports have also pointed out crucial lapses in following the standard procedure and guidelines while handling the bodies of the deceased patients with some of them being tossed into graves which not only violates the right to a dignified burial but also disregards the necessary precautions amid the virus outbreak.
During these times, With help from Mulnivasi Muslim Manch and Christian Charitable trust, Sagayi and her team of volunteers have been performing the last rites at Salisbury Park Missionary Cemetery for the last three months, free of cost.
"It's been three months that I have been performing last rituals. Although I have diabetes and hypertension, this doesn't stop me from this godly work," Sagayi told Punekarnews.in.
"During the early days of COVID pandemic, the deceased were cremated, and nobody was taking the initiative to bury the dead. So I said to myself that dying fighting Corona is better than dying at the hands of Corona. With the help of Mulnivasi Muslim Manch and Christian Charitable trust, I could help the families of the deceased," she explained.
This front line corona warrior and her team has been conducting the rites keeping into consideration the protocols to be followed while handling bodies of COVID patients. Speaking on the process, she said that her team wears PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits and don gloves, masks while ferrying bodies in ambulances from hospitals to the burial grounds the cemetery.
Once the funeral is done, the PPE suits are burned and destroyed. All the team members and helpers sanitise themselves after every burial.
She mentioned that even the local pastors are either scared to visit the site to offer prayers for the rites or are unavailable because of the lockdown. So, she has to step in to pray over the bodies of the deceased before carrying out the burial herself along with her team.
Sagayi said, "I have a six-year-old daughter and a family, hence I take all precautions and believe in God. Currently, I perform the last rites of Christian deceased. I pray for them as the pastors are either scared or unavailable. I pray, I also carry the deceased from the ambulance and bury them respectfully with my own hands."
The team carries out the rites in accordance with the concerned religious practices. The volunteers including Sagayi dig the graves, bury the dead bodies in the pit with their own hands and also refill the pits after the burials. She is of the opinion that more women should come out to help, reported Femina. Also, her work has not just been confined to those belonging to the Christian community, she also carries out the funeral rites for the destitute families from other communities, if the need arises.
She has been in the forefront combating the coronavirus pandemic along with her husband who helps her with the process. They have reportedly performed last rites for 30 Christians who succumbed to the virus and both of them strongly believe that the coronavirus can only be defeated when everyone will unite and fight against it.
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