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There’s a spike in Muslim burials in Indore, but most deaths are not linked to coronavirus

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New graves at the Mhow Naka burial ground in Covid-19 hotspot Indore | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint
New graves at the Mhow Naka burial ground in Covid-19 hotspot Indore | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint


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Indore: At the Mhow Naka burial ground, Indore’s largest, a group of about 10 men, with handkerchiefs tied around their faces, lugs a coffin out of a truck and makes its way to a grave dug just a few metres away.

It’s a sight that has become all too familiar at Mhow Naka and other graveyards in Madhya Pradesh’s commercial capital Indore, a Covid-19 hotspot city. Ever since the nationwide lockdown came into effect on the midnight of 24-25 March, Indore has seen a drastic increase in the number of deaths among Muslims.

Indore Municipal Corporation data shows that in the first two weeks of April, the city has witnessed a massive spike in burials, but there is no corresponding spike from Hindu cremation grounds.

ThePrint visited the city’s biggest burial grounds to find out why this spike had occurred, and was told by city officials and people in-charge of the graveyards that not many deaths were related to Covid-19, despite several containment zones in the city falling in areas with high Muslim populations.

Several people said a lot of these deaths had occurred because the people were denied treatment at hospitals. However, Indore Collector Manish Singh told ThePrint that the reason for the spike in Muslim deaths could be the strictness of the lockdown.

“From 25 March to 29 March, the atmosphere was a little liberal, but it became stricter after 29 March. Then, we closed all the clinics, which are a potential source of the spread of infection. The local doctors were made to sit outside and treat patients,” he said.

“It is possible that because of hypertension, sugar and heart ailments, such localised cases happened. But nothing happened on a large scale,” Singh said.


Also read: ‘Should we poison our kids?’ — Indore daily wagers complain of sparse, erratic food supply


‘JCB’ brought in to dig more graves

The number of bodies buried at Mhow Naka alone between 1 and 16 April was 75, compared to 10 in March, 29 in February and 48 in January.

“Earlier, we would get two or three bodies every day. In a month, 30-35 bodies were normal. But after the (Covid-19) infection, this number has increased by 25-30 bodies,” a weary-eyed Mubarik Hussain, in-charge of the cemetery, told ThePrint.

Hussain said the cause of the deaths were predominantly heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes and hypertension. Only 8-10 bodied were those of Covid-19 patients, and they too had tested positive after death, he said.

“In some cases, people did not get proper treatment — hospitals refuse to admit them. Some also died at the gates of the hospitals. They were just going around from hospital to hospital,” Hussain said.

Mhow Naka burial ground in-charge Mubarik Hussain | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint
Mhow Naka burial ground in-charge Mubarik Hussain | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti | ThePrint

ThePrint spotted a digger, commonly known by its brand name ‘JCB’, which had just finished digging a grave. Hussain said the machine had been brought in by the local authorities to help the overburdened staff. “There are only four people here to dig the graves. So, sometimes, families also end up digging graves,” he said.

Residents of the neighbouring Samajwad area described the frequent sight of bodies being brought to be buried. Subhash Chouhan, 36, who lives just about 100 feet away from the burial ground, said, “I’ve seen 8-10 bodies being brought in one day. Four people would bring it in a cart and bury it just two or three feet into the ground.”

Chouhan said he shot a video of a burial — he presumed it was that of a Covid-19 patient, since out of six people who buried the body, three were wrapped in personal protective equipment.

Another resident, Rahul Nangi, said: “They bring the bodies here at night or early morning. The colony is sealed, and people are very scared of the infection spreading. We had also sent an appeal to the Chhatripura police station.”


Also read: This Indore hospital ‘first in India’ to try TCZ in critical Covid cases, claims good results


Not limited to one graveyard

The upward trend of burials has been observed at three other burial grounds too. At the Banganga cemetery, 44 bodies were buried between 1 and 16 April, of which 29 were brought in just between the 10th and the 16th. The numbers for the three preceding months were 10 (March), 11 (February) and 9 (January).

At the Chandan Nagar cemetery, the 1-16 April figure was 56, compared to 30 in March, 12 in February and 7 in January.

But the jump at Luniyapura graveyard was even bigger — 96 bodies were brought there in the first 16 days of burial, compared to just 5 in March, 13 in February and 20 in January.

Luniyapura graveyard in-charge Rafique Shah | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti
Luniyapura graveyard in-charge Rafique Shah | Photo: Angana Chakrabarti

“More people die out of anxiety and of not getting treatment. No one wants to touch them in the hospitals,” said an exasperated-looking Luniyapura cemetery in-charge Rafique Shah.

“We are digging five to seven graves every day — twice the usual number. I’ve had to employ three people when usually it’s just me.”


Also read: 1 sample a day to over 350: How Indore’s 5-month-old virology lab raised its testing capacity


The state of Hindu cremation grounds 

Data shows that the number of bodies at Hindu cremation grounds hasn’t spiked as much as at the Muslim graveyards.

At Panchkuian cremation ground, the largest in Indore, 95 bodies were cremated between 1 and 16 April, compared to 128 in March, 161 in February and 243 in January.

Similarly, at Juni cremation ground, 39 bodies were brought in the first 16 days of April, while the numbers for the previous three months stood at 18 (March), 26 (February) and 48 (January).

Juni cremation ground stands just about a kilometre away from Luniyapura cemetery, and its in-charge, Sohanlal Jeevan, said there had been only a slight increase since the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Earlier, five bodies used to come in a day; now the number is about eight. There are also one or two patients of Covid-19,” he said.

Acknowleding the bigger spike in the figures at the nearby cemetery, Jeevan said: “There, the rise has been nearly three times. What was usually the case for the whole month is now being seen within eight days.”


Also read: 5-hr sleep, limited PPE, bath outside home: Life of officers called back to aid hotspot Indore


‘Left without treatment’

Social worker Anwar Dehalvi said several of the deaths occurred because the patients were denied treatment.

“The private hospitals have especially done a lot of injustice. In one day, we would have to go to eight places with one patient. But the hospitals refused to take them in, saying there are no beds,” he said.

Dehalvi, a resident of Bombay Bazar, a hotspot zone in Indore, claimed that at least 25 patients had died in the area because they were denied treatment.

Among them was Mohammed Javed’s 65-year-old father, a fruit seller. Javed told ThePrint that his father fell sick on 12 April, but had to be taken around for at least two hours before a hospital admitted him.

“He was running a temperature. We took him to four or five hospitals, but no one was willing to admit him. They told us that there weren’t any beds and we should go elsewhere. With a lot of difficulties, we admitted him to one hospital. He died the next day at 8.30 am,” he said.

“This is wrong; you can’t refuse a patient. It’s their duty to admit him,” Javed said.


Also read: At Indore’s Covid-19 Ground Zero, there’s fear, suspicion and hostility — but some hope too


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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