After the cremations were held in Ponda, the locals of that town too joined in the opposition. There is no plausible reason given for opposing the cremations. It is merely a no to the cremation, and even the local MLAs have joined in this. It is clear from this that the elected representatives have given in to the panic situation surrounding the pandemic, instead of being the voices of reason.
It is has to be made clear to the people that bodies of COVID patients do not transmit the viurs. The standard operating procedure of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is clear that the main driver of transmission of COVID-19 is droplets from infected patients. Where bodies are concerned, it is only the lungs of dead COVID patients that could be infectious and that too if they are handled during an autopsy, as per the MoHFW. Of course, the standard precautions will have to be taken, but this is applicable to everyday life now. The MoHFW allows religious rituals including reading from scriptures, sprinkling holy water and any last rites that do not require that body to be touched. It does not allow bathing, kissing, hugging, of the body. How then will the cremation or burial of a body of a COVID-19 patient be of any risk to the community at large?
There has been no sesitiation of the people of the State on the issue – neither of the pandemic nor of handling deaths. The residents of Sada who opposed the cremation have fallen back on the NIMBY ‘not-in-my-backyard’ phenomenon, and opposed the cremation of the COVID-19 victim in their backyard, but have no problem if it happen elsewhere. There was no thinking about the issue, it was pure blind opposition. Sadly, in this case the local MLA, Milind Naik, who is also a minister in the government was also part of the opposition. It should have been he as minister who should have convinced, or at least attempted to convince, the people of his constituency, that there is no harm in cremating the body of a COVID patient in the crematorium. This didn’t happen, neither did the MLAs on Ponda taluka convince their constitueents, and this is a reflection of the kind of leadership that Goa has at present.
The cremations took place at night and without the presence of the relatives of the persons who had died. This was an opportunity for the governemnt to send out a message to the people of Goa that there is no harm in having a funeral of the person who has died of COVID-19. These were the first two deaths. There could be more in the coming days. Had the administration ensured the relatives, after observing the necessary protocol were present for the funeral, it would have been a message to the people of Goa that there is no fear of transmission in funerals of the COVID dead. The SOP allows the family to be present for the funeral, but stresses on social distancing as it is possible that the close family members could be carriers of the virus. Goa missed the opportunity to prove to the people that a funeral of a COVID patient is not to be shunned.
The NIMBY factor that has taken over in Goa needs to be addressed. This is a very parochial way of thinking, wherein the people are unwilling to allow a project, or in this case the cremation of bodies, in their vicinity, but see no harm in the same happening elsewhere. How can something unacceptable in one area be acceptable in another?