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Spike in Covid deaths, families’ refusal to claim bodies led to LNJP pile-up: Delhi govt to HC

AAP govt tells Delhi HC measures such as allowing use of wood for cremation and extension of crematorium hours have been taken to dispose of bodies.

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New Delhi: A sudden spike in Covid-19 deaths and crematorium workers refusing to handle the deceased are some of the reasons behind the pile-up of bodies at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital, the Delhi government told the high court Friday.

The hearing was conducted through video conference before a bench led by Chief Justice D.N. Patel, which Thursday took sotu motu cognisance of media reports showing pile-up of Covid patients’ bodies at LNJP hospital.

The HC noted how all 80 storage racks at the hospital’s Covid-19 mortuary were full and 28 bodies were kept on the floor. The court also noted how eight bodies were returned from Nigambodh ghat, the officially designated crematorium for coronavirus victims.

Sanjoy Ghose, the standing counsel for Delhi government, Friday spoke about a host of measures the administration has taken to ensure LNJP does not end up being a repository of bodies.

Also read: No Covid test if patient is dead, Delhi govt says in new guidelines for disposal of bodies

Relatives ‘refusing’ to take bodies

Ghose told the bench, “The capacity to cremate had reduced due to a technical snag in one of the electric crematoriums there (Nigambodh ghat).”

The sudden spike in the deaths mounted the pressure of cremating bodies at the ghat, which then refused to accept any more bodies sent by the hospital, Ghose said.

He further said relatives of the deceased refused to come forward to accept the bodies leading to the pile-up. “The bodies are lying at the hospital because relatives do not turn up to claim (the bodies) for fear of getting infected,” Ghose told the bench during the virtual hearing.

And, refusal to handle such bodies by the workers of Nigambodh ghat has worsened the problem for the hospital, Ghose added.

More cremation grounds to be opened

In addition to electric and CNG furnaces, Ghose said, the government has permitted use of wood to cremate the bodies.  

Also, bodies of Covid patients can now be cremated at two more grounds — Panchkuian and Punjabi Bagh — besides Nigambodh. 

Working hours of the crematoria have also been extended so that more bodies can be cremated. They would now be open from 7 am to 10 pm as opposed to 9 am to 4 pm.

A decision has also been taken to send the bodies for cremation in case the families do not come to claim them, the court was told. Workers handling the bodies at the cremation grounds will be provided PPE kits for their safety.

The bench was also informed that 28 bodies were disposed of Friday, while 35 would be cremated Saturday. Only those bodies have been retained where post-mortem investigations need to be carried out, said Ghose.

The high court asked Ghose to submit a detailed status report regarding the matter before 2 June, the next date of hearing.

Also read: Delhi has registered 443 ‘Covid funerals’ since 14 March, four times the govt death figures


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