The group of nine volunteers have cremated more than 170 bodies in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteers in crematorium carrying coffin
news Coronavirus Tuesday, May 25, 2021 - 19:13

With Bengaluru still recording hundreds of deaths due to COVID-19 everyday, many are pitching in selflessly to help cremate the victims as per protocols. Among them are recent graduates of St Joseph's College, who have cremated over 170 victims in the second wave of the pandemic. Seven alumni from St Joseph's College in Bengaluru— Tejhashwin, Arun, Nelson, Yashwanth, Kevin, Rohit and Jerry— have joined the group of young volunteers, who operate under the name ‘Here I Am’, are helping cremate COVID-19 victims in cemeteries in Bengaluru. 

"Some volunteers have been working since September 2020 and few of us have begun in the last month in the second wave. We are alumni of St Joseph's College and we decided to come together and help because we saw that the deaths were piling up and many people were hesitating to come forward and risk themselves with cremating COVID-19 victims," N Tejhashwin told TNM.

The volunteers respond to calls from Bengaluru and cremate the bodies mostly in the crematoriums on Mysuru Road and in Shantinagar in the city. "Now it has reduced but two weeks ago, we cremated more than 25 victims in a day. Now it has come down to 15 dead bodies in a day," says Tejhashwin. Along with them, many other youngsters have come forward to help ease the load on crematorium workers in Bengaluru. This includes Nicole Furtado, 20, and Tina Cherian, 21, who are currently students, studying social work and medicine. 

This comes at a time when a report has highlighted crematorium workers in Bengaluru are forced to work as long as 14 hours in a day and do not even get the minimum wage set by the government. ‘Dignity Disposed’, a report prepared by the AICCTU (All India Central Council of Trade Unions) in the city has highlighted how they are compelled to work in "slave-like conditions".