The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (North DMC) has told the Delhi High Court that cremations of both COVID and non-COVID dead are going on smoothly and bodies are not piling up at any of the crematoriums in the city. The submission by the corporation was made in an affidavit filed in the high court in response to a PIL by an NGO, which operates green crematoriums in Delhi, offering its facilities to cremate the bodies of those who have died of COVID-19.
The corporation has also said the NGO -- 'Mokshda Paryavaran Evam Van Suraksha Samiti' -- was already operating six green crematoriums at Nigambodh Ghat and allowing it to operate more would only create confusion. It said the NGO, represented by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, moved the court before submitting any proposal to the corporations and therefore its plea was premature and liable to be dismissed.
Presently, the six green Mokshda furnaces and 50 wood-based pyres are being used to dispose of non-COVID dead bodies, the affidavit stated. Besides that 57 wood-based pyres and three CNG furnaces are being used to cremate coronavirus casualties, it said.
The corporation has further said it presently handle 367 COVID-19 bodies per day, which is more than twice of the current average requirement, and therefore, "there is no piling up or waiting of COVID-19 dead bodies at Nigambodh Ghat or any other crematorium of North DMC at any point of time, and are disposed of with dignity". It said all three corporations have sufficient space available to increase the cremation capacity and also accommodate both the COVID and non-COVID dead bodies.
It said the disposal of COVID-19 bodies was going on smoothly without any waiting at any of the crematoriums all of which were functioning 24x7. The other measures taken by the corporation are allowing the cremation on wood pyres at Punjabi Bagh, Punchkuiyan Road cremation ground, Karkardooma cremation ground and the electric crematorium at Lodhi Road, the affidavit said.
North MCD has also said that Nigambodh Ghat crematorium ground is presently working in two sections -- one for COVID casualties and other for non-COVID dead -- and the area is divided into two parts to avoid spread of the virus. The National Disaster Management Authority, in its response, said as per provisions of the Disaster Management Act, its responsibility is to lay down policies, plans and guidelines for ensuring effective and timely response to any calamity.
Accordingly, it has issued 'Guidelines for Management of Dead in the aftermath of disasters'. "In the present matter, it is for the Delhi government or relevant municipal authorities to take a decision on whether to allow a green crematorium unit for disposal of bodies of COVID-19 victims in accordance with the guidelines issued by both NDMA and Ministry of Health," the authority has said in its affidavit filed in response to the NGO's plea.
The NGO filed a petition offering its services after coming to know about the PIL initiated by the court on its own based on news reports about the lack of facilities to cremate those who have died of COVID-19 and that such bodies were piling up in the mortuaries. An anguished high court had said if this was the correct situation then it was "highly dissatisfactory and violative of the rights of the dead".