Poverty Forced 19-Year-old Chand Mohammed To Cremate Covid Bodies
Masihuzzama Ansari | India Tomorrow
NEW DELHI, JUNE 24—Poverty forced the 19-year-old Mohammed Chand to take up the high risk job of handling bodies of Covid-19 patients at the Lok Nayak Jay Prakash Narayan (LNJP) Hospital and transport them to cremation grounds and graveyards.
Chand, who has seven members in his family including his parents, three sisters and a brother, took up the job of a sweeper in the LNJP hospital in first week of June. He was not an employee of the hospital but hired by a private company that has been outsourced by the hospital for house-keeping and other odd jobs like handling the dead bodies.
Speaking to India Tomorrow at his residence in Seelampur in trans-Yamuna area, Chand said that he never liked the job. “But poverty forced me to take up the sweeper’s job”. He was hired at monthly salary of Rs. 18,000, with his working hours stretching from 12 noon to 8 pm. His family lives in a rented house.
He has now left his job after officials of the ‘Vision 2026’, floated by the Human Welfare Foundation, a pan-India non-government organization, came to know about him and offered financial assistance for him and his family. The NGO has assured the family to bear the educational expenses of his three sisters and Chand himself as also provide expenses for the family. Chand, who has studied up to Std 10th only, aspires to become a medico.
Chand said, “Vision 2026 helped me financially after it came to know about me and my family’s plight. They asked me to give up the high risk job. They also asked me to start my studies again. I may now be able to realise my dream of becoming a doctor”.
He said he has not been approached by any government or private agency other than “Vision 2026” so far.
In his job of about a fortnight, Chand handled about 30 bodies and shifted them either to cremation ground or the graveyard. “I handled at least 30 bodies in 14 days of my job. There was also another person with me and both of us together loaded the bodies in the ambulance and again took them out at the cremation ground and graveyard”, said Chand.
“Sometimes, my help was not there and I had to do everything myself. I had to put the boy inside the ambulance, take it to the graveyard or cremation ground and take it down and put it on a stretcher for shifting to the cremation spot or the grave as the case may be”, he recalled.
He said that he had to do this job by wearing the personal protective equipment (PPE) which is very heavy. “It is really a very difficult to do physical work by wearing PPE because you feel suffocated and it makes you sweat heavily”, said Chand.
When questioned if he did not feel scared in handling the bodies of Covid patients, Chand replied, “When there is hunger in the family, you don’t detest any work. I required money for my family. So, I never felt hesitant or scared in lifting and transporting bodies. There was no other option before me. My family would have died of hunger, not Covid, had I taken up the sweeper’s job in the hospital”.
Before lockdown, Chand and his elder brother worked as a salesman at a garment shop. But they lost their job after lockdown and the family came under financial problems. ”Forced by the poverty, I accepted the job of a sweeper in LNJP Hospital where I was assigned the work of removing Covid bodies from the mortuary, putting them into ambulances and then shift them to cremation grounds and graveyard”, said Chand.
Chand’s father worked as a daily wage labourer and due to old age, he can’t work now. The family originally hails from Meerut in Western UP.
Chand said, “My mother is sick. She requires to be operated upon. My younger sisters want to continue their studies. And we required money to run the family also. The family faced severe crisis. Some local people provided us foodgrains but that was not enough to meet the family requirement. Hence, I had to take up whatever job was available”.