Agnipareeksha: Bengaluru’s TR Mills compound flooded with dead bodies

Heart-wrenching scenes at the TR Mills compound after it started accepting covid bodies are putting Bengaluru to the test. And worryingly, non-covid cremations seem to have outstripped covid ones

You’ve seen the photos of covid bodies being cremated on pavements in Delhi. Photos of aerial shots of mass cremations in Delhi have touched the conscience of the international community and Indians alike. Delhi’s total death toll due to covid stands at 14,628. Bengaluru may seem far behind with 6,139 total deaths, but the City reported 137 deaths on Wednesday. Stories of people waiting for 13 hours to cremate their dead are in circulation. And none of them is made up. That the government set up open cremation and burial grounds in four-acre plots should indicate how serious the matter is.

And now the TR Mills open cremation ground, which started taking in both covid and non-covid bodies is seeing close to 100 bodies every day.

With not enough space on the ground, the bodies are being cremated next to each other with less than six feet of space.

It is a small space and we are trying to make the best use of it so that people don’t have to wait for long hours. On Tuesday, we cremated about 60 non-covid bodies and 34 covid bodies. Earlier we used to shut by 6 pm but now we have been asked to extend our timings

– A crematorium staff< small/>

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The scenes are very similar to Delhi and with an increasing number of covid positive cases and fatalities, the open cremation grounds could soon run out of space too if the numbers don’t stop increasing.

Though the crematorium has different entries and exits for covid and non-covid cases, the bodies are being cremated next to each other on the same ground. Families of patients, both covid and non-covid deaths, were seen crowding inside the cremation ground with no fear. Some families who were devastated by the loss of their dear ones were seen crying outside the crematoriums. At the entrance of the cremation ground, about 20 ambulances and 50 private vehicles were parked haphazardly, creating traffic jams. One of the crematorium staff said, “It is a small space and we are trying to make the best use of it so that people don’t have to wait for long hours.

On Tuesday, we cremated about 60 non-covid bodies and 34 covid bodies. Earlier we used to shut by 6 pm but now we have been asked to extend our timings.”|

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BM noticed that about 15 staff deployed to carry out the cremations did not have PPE even when they were transporting covid bodies. They didn’t even have gloves. On questioning one of them, he said, “The bodies are just coming in one after the other and we have not sat for a minute. Seeing so many bodies, we have just given up. We are losing track of how many bodies we are being cremated. It’s very difficult to wear the kit the entire time. We’re scared it might catch fire since bodies are being cremated close to each other. “

With a shortage of firewood to carry out cremations, the staff were seen picking up half-burnt pieces of wood from pyres to use for new cremations. Trucks were seen coming in and dumping wooden logs. In no time, the logs had been moved to the pyres. There were 20 steel platforms and 20 cement platforms that were kept at a distance of eight feet to carry out the cremations, but with a steady stream of ambulances coming in with bodies, the space between them was also utilised for cremations. The families of covid patients were also seen performing last rites on the pavements outside the cremation ground.

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A police constable who was deployed outside the crematorium said that they have been asking people not to gather in large numbers but since they are very emotional and grieving, it is difficult to manage them. “They perform the last rites outside and leave their clothes, towels and other things behind. We have been coordinating with the marshals to clear the crowds and ask people not to litter the place. Many are losing their temper and often get into arguments with others. We intervene and try to calm them down,” he said.


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Sagar Biswas

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