Mahesh Chandra Agarwal, 84, a resident of Rajajipuram in Lucknow died due to corona last Sunday but there was no one around to conduct his last rites. His daughter browsed social media and contacted a 23-year-old, who along with his friends offered to cremate Agarwal’s infected body with dignity.
Abhishek and his friends – Karunesh Pathak, Sunny Sahu, Shashank Shukla, Ramesh Tripathi and Raghav Kumar wore personal protection equipment (PPE) kits and took the body to the cremation ground where they performed Agarwal’s last rites.
“Had they not been here, the last rites of my father would not have been performed. At a time when relatives are running away from a corona patient, they are risking their lives to help others. I have no words to express my gratitude,” said Mahesh’s daughter Kanta Agarwal (52).
Abhishek is one among several others in the city who are helping out the needy during the unprecedented crisis with free food, medicines, oxygen cylinders, ambulance service when the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the second wave of the disease has paralysed health infrastructure causing deaths and despondence.
Abhishek said instances of ill-treatment of patients dying of the coronavirus made him take up the responsibility to give dignity to the dead.
“I was really sad when I heard that in Jaunpur, an elderly man was forced to carry the body of his wife on a bicycle for hours because villagers did not allow the funeral fearing coronavirus.” He says he called his friends that day and told them that he would cremate those abandoned by their relatives or community due to fear of Covid infection.
“I asked my friends if they would like to join me, and all agreed. We collected some money, purchased PPE kits, face shields, gloves, masks, head covers, shoe covers, and sanitisers. We floated our number on social media and got going. Till now we have cremated 12 such bodies,” he said.
Abhishek and his team can be reached on 8887987566. He says he and his friends don’t charge a penny for cremations. “I just want to remind everyone that every dead body deserves dignity. As human beings, we cannot let a virus dictate terms to such an extent that we start disrespecting dead people,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday recorded the biggest single-day jump of 357 Covid-19 deaths including 38 from Lucknow, taking the toll to 14,151. Lucknow also reported the highest number of Covid cases– 3,004 out of the 31,165 fresh cases reported across the state.