Bengaluru is witnessing a massive surge in COVID-19 infections in the second wave of the pandemic. With the spike in deaths, crematoriums and graveyards are overflowing with bodies.
The workers at several of these facilities, however, say that they have not been paid for months and have threatened to stop operations in the coming days.
Anthony, who has been working as a gravedigger in Bengaluru since 1974, says that the pandemic has made his work more stressful. The 65-year-old, however, also alleged that he has not been paid for more than a year.
"The number of bodies coming is beyond control. We don't know what will happen next. I also had Covid. I was also in the hospital for three months," Anthony told NDTV. The government and the civic body of Bengaluru did not give "one drop or help", he added.
"We haven't got our salary for 13 months. How do we pay school fee, electricity bills, water bills?" he asked.
"We don't know the world outside the graveyard. Going ahead we will close the graveyard. Then they will come to know who we are," he added.
Suresh, State General Secretary Ambedkar Dalit Sanghursh Samiti said, "When Covid patients die, their own families don't come near the bodies. They are far away. When the bodies come, they come like orphan bodies. We are the family members of the Covid patients. But the government is not thinking about us."
"They are not listening to our voice and our pains. So, we have planned to shut down all the crematoria and grave-digging on certain days," Suresh said.
More than 13,000 people have died in Karnataka due to Coronavirus. Of this, 5,000 deaths have been reported in Bengaluru alone.
The case fatality rate in the state is nearly 0.44%, however, with the high number of infections, the number of deaths has also risen.
Commenting on the situation, Karnataka's Social Welfare Minister B Sriramulu said, "The people who work in the burial grounds, places where bodies are burnt, they have not got payment for 7 months. I have spoken to the senior-most officers in BBMP. They say it will be cleared as early as possible."
BBMP commissioner Gaurav Gupta said he was not aware that crematorium workers are unpaid. "I will order the immediate release of salaries," he said.