Millions vote in final phase of marathon polls in West Bengal despite record spike in COVID infections and deaths.
Two or three months into the COVID-19 crisis, Mumbai gravedigger Sayyed Munir Kamruddin stopped wearing personal protective equipment and gloves.
“I’m not scared of COVID, I have worked with courage. It’s all about courage, not about fear,” said the 52-year-old, who has been digging graves in the mega city for 25 years.
India is in the midst of a vicious second wave of coronavirus infections that on Thursday saw the pandemic’s deadliest day with 3,645 deaths and 379,257 new cases reported in the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data.
At least 300,000 people have tested positive each day for the past week, taking India’s total caseload past 18 million.
The surge has overwhelmed its under-funded and fragile healthcare system – and even crematoriums and graveyards.
In New Delhi, ambulances have been taking the bodies of COVID-19 victims to makeshift crematoriums in parks and parking lots, where bodies are burned on rows and rows of funeral pyres.
‘Gov’t not giving us anything’
Kamruddin says he and his colleagues are working around the clock to bury COVID-19 victims.
“This is our only job. Getting the body, removing it from the ambulance, and then burying it,” he said, adding that he has not had a break in a year.
Though it is the middle of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Kamruddin told the Reuters news agency his trying job and the hot weather has kept him from fasting.
“My work is really hard,” he said. “I feel thirsty for water. I need to dig graves, cover them with mud, need to carry dead bodies. With all this work, how can I fast?”
Yet Kamruddin’s faith keeps him going, and he does not expect aid from the government anytime soon.
“Our trust in our mosque is very strong,” he said. “The government is not going to give us anything. We don’t even want anything from the government.”