She Does What Even Relatives Don’t – Cremate Bodies in Pandemic


Varsha Vermaa – cremating the dead.

LUCKNOW – ‘Ek Koshish Aisi Bhi’ — this is not the title of a film but words that today spell hope for those in distress.

‘Ek Koshish Aisi Bhi’ is an NGO, run by Varsha Verma, 42, that is helping people in ferrying Covid bodies to the cremation ground and even helping them in performing the last rites.

The NGO goes out of its way to help the elderly and destitute.

Versha decided to launch the initiative two years ago when she lost her friend and waited for several hours to get a hearse van for cremation.

Versha then decided that she would not let others suffer in a similar manner.

She put out a post on Facebook seeking a van on rent for pick-and-drop of bodies.

“A few hours later, I received several phone calls and by the evening I managed to hire a vehicle. Later, my brother Hitesh Verma and I looked for a driver. As soon as we got a driver in our team, I started sitting at RML Hospital with a placard that said ‘Nishulk Shav Vahan’ (free hearse). Initially, people gave confused looks but later some families came to seek help. Some patients had relatives who would accompany me to the cremation ground, while some did not have anyone. We cremated five bodies on the first day and nine on the second day,” she said.

This soon became a full-fledged service for Versha and two members of her team when the pandemic began last year.

As soon as she gets a call or a family approaches her, she takes out a van and ferries the body of the deceased Covid patient to the cremation ground for last rites.

At a time when close relatives of Covid patients refrain from touching or cremating the bodies due to the fear of infection, Versha takes up the task and that too, without any charges.

Dressed in PPE kit, Versha and her team members visit the hospital or the house of the deceased and take the body to the cremation ground. They even drop the family back to their house after the last rites are performed.

The funds come from the Divya Sewa Foundation, which they set up to do social work in 2017.

“Since our childhood, we have been taught to pay respect to the dead. At a time when people are helpless and dying every hour, this is our way to pay respect to those who are falling prey to pandemic,” she said.

Though it is the duty of the police to cremate such unclaimed bodies, even they call Versha for help when they are busy.

When cremated by police, the bodies are usually taken in an open rickshaw packed in a cloth, but Versha arranges for a vehicle and brings the body to the crematorium with respect and dignity.

Versha said that she has been getting a lot of help and support from the workers at the Baikunth Dham and Gulala Ghat cremation grounds.

Her husband, Rakesh is an engineer and he said that he fears for her in the pandemic.

Versha, however, is a role model for her teenage daughter, Nandini, who is proud of her mother and wants to grow up to be just like her. -IANS

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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