In photos: Delhi runs out of space to cremate its dead

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

The trees on the boundaries of Delhi’s Old Seemapuri cremation ground is charred due to the continuous flames from the burning pyres. Over a hundred bodies are burned a day with dozens of mortal remains lined up outside the cremation ground with grieving relatives covered in a mask.

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

The graph of the second wave stands tall as a wall and the visuals of the national COVID-19 emergency is heartbreaking. Patients die waiting outside hospitals and waiting for ambulances in their home, all indicating the collapse of Delhi’s medical infrastructure. India dropped the ball too early and became the worst-hit nation in the world after a year into the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

The rising number of deaths — 380 were recorded in Delhi on Monday — has left crematoriums in urgent need of space. With 3,293 new deaths, India’s total number of fatalities now stands at 201,187, and the overall number of cases is now nearly 18 million, according to health ministry data. But national and international watchdog groups have flagged massive under-reporting in government data.

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to admit the COVID storm that has hit home and the nation is in crisis. Modi’s election rallies and Kumbla Mela, a massive Hindu religious festival with millions of attendees, are criticised as super spreader events which contributed to the apocalyptic spike in coronavirus cases in India.

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

The Chief Minister of Delhi and other ministers have taken the social media with urgent pleas to help the state with oxygen supply. Individuals are using social media to find bed, oxygen, medicine and food as the daily caseload is a record high, even before the second wave is on the peak. People lament the helplessness felt as people lose their life in real-time with a plea for help shared on their social media accounts.

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

In Delhi, the authorities have reportedly cut down trees in city parks for use as kindling on funeral pyres. Relatives of the dead have also been asked to help with cremations by piling wood and assisting in other rituals.

An investigation by television station NDTV found at least 1,150 extra deaths which were not included in Delhi’s official Covid count over the last week. Hospitals had to go to court with an emergency plea to get the supply of medical oxygen. At least two hospitals in Delhi have seen patients die after oxygen supplies ran out. 

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

The official data hasn’t even considered the deaths that are happening in home isolation. The crematoriums are lit up constantly. The graveyards have no space for burial. The acute shortage of oxygen is leading to more and more deaths. People are on the verge of losing hope.

As many as 24,331 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours in Delhi wiht backlogs due to slow testing in many parts of the capital. Rituals have taken a backseat when it’s the funeral of a patient who has died of the coronavirus.

Photo: Meer Faisal/Maktoob

Help has come through Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal, an NGO in Delhi. The group has organised funerals for over 500 people in the last three months. Shocked and overwhelmed, citizens and Non- Government Organisations have stepped up to help and assist people in distress and emergency.

Many countries have extended support to India struggling to atleat duck-tape the collapsed medial infrastructure to curb the surge in COVID-19 cases. US president Joe Biden called India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take stock of the situation and extend support to India.

Meer Faisal is a Delhi based photojournalist.