Hyderabad: The city's Puranapul crematorium allegedly cremated close to 20 per cent of the state's COVID-19 victims in July.

According to the medical bulletins issued by the Telangana government, the state reported 270 COVID deaths that month. The head of the crematorium said 60 PPE-wrapped bodies were cremated at the site from 1 to 30 July, which is roughly quarter of the total COVID-19 deaths that occurred in the state.

The crematorium is currently maintained by the Agrawal Seva Samiti. COVID-19 cremations began at Puranapul in July. “During the entire month, we buried 60 COVID-19 victims,” said Brijgopal Bansal, the president of the samiti, adding that on an average the crematorium performs the last rites of four coronavirus victims every day. “Some days, we even perform seven-eight cremations,” he said.

However, junior officials at the crematorium said they do not get the chance to confirm that each body wrapped in PPE is a confirmed COVID-19 case. “Performing the cremation of one COVID victim takes one to two hours. We try our best to confirm the certificates but mostly we go by word of mouth of the relatives/ attendants,” a staffer who performs the cremations daily said.

In the last month, there were also reports of several suspected COVID victims being cremated at the ESI crematorium in Erragadda. Officials of the National Students Union of India had found a video showing over 50 COVID-19 victims being cremated at the same time at the crematorium. This incident came to light on 23 July.

A few days later, the High Court advocate, Gopal Sharma, also filmed a video of 20 suspected and confirmed COVID victims being cremated at a reserved area in the ESI crematorium.

Staffers at the Puranapul crematorium have also reserved a special area for COVID cremations. This NewsMeter correspondent visited the crematorium in July and saw the pyres of four COVID victims who were cremated on the same day.

Several unclaimed bodies of COVID victims are also buried at the Puranapul crematorium with the help of organisations like Satya Harischandra Foundation. “While we initially did not want to cremate COVID victims here, we were pushed into it by the local police. Since then, bodies have come to us every day,” Mr. Brijgopal further said.

He added that while the local police had ensured him that their crematorium would be sanitised regularly by the local municipal authorities, this has not been the case.

Priyali Dhingra

Priyali Dhingra is a post graduate in Communication Studies from Hyderabad Central University. She has previously worked as a photojournalist, editorial, and graphic design intern in The Indian Express, Newslaundry, and NDTV. Reigning from Delhi, she has an avid interest in photojournalism, and all things visual. She has also represented India as a delegate in the JENESYS 2019 Student Exchange Program with the Government of Japan. Having pursued her graduation in history from Delhi University, she was also a part of her college's theatre society. Her primary interests include: photography, poetry & politics.

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