The letter details short-term demands such as insurance and increased pay, and long-term demands such as classification of the workers as govt employees.

Two funeral pyres seen burning as a staff member walks by with a bucket in his handIMAGE FOR REPRESENTATION | PTI
Coronavirus Coronavirus Monday, May 17, 2021 - 17:43

To address the plight of crematorium and cemetery workers amid the second wave of coronavirus infections in Karnataka, actor and political activist Chetan Kumar wrote a letter to Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and Social Welfare Minister B Sriramalu. The letter, written on behalf of the workers, was shared by the actor on Twitter and outlines their demands, to ensure their safety amid the pandemic. “Cemetery/ crematorium workers, socio-economically marginalised members of our society for generations, are taking extraordinary medical risks in this pandemic,” it reads. The actor, also known as ‘Ahimsa’ Chetan, shared it in both English and Kannada.

The letter also refers to the crematorium/ cemetery workers as frontline warriors, and lists their short and long-term demands. The short-term demands include medical insurance, priority for vaccination, priority for hospital beds in case of COVID-19 infection as well as provision of masks and gloves along with PPE kits. In light of the surge in workload, the letter also urges the government to provide higher pay to the workers, as well as to increase the workforce.

Apart from these, the letter also outlines the long-term demands that the workers seek. These include being permanently classified as group ‘D’ government employees, and thus receiving all benefits of the status including provident funds and insurance for workers of all religions. The letter also asks for housing outside the crematorium/cemetery premises and free, quality education for the children of the workers. With crematoriums and cemeteries running overtime amid the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, a permanent demand that the workers seek is limiting work timings to 8 hours a day. Reiterating that cemetery and crematorium workers have been marginalised for generations, the letter also outlines the need for their socio-economic and educational upliftment. 

Chetan Kumar has been actively participating in and organising socio-political seminars in Karnataka since 2005. He has worked towards the eradication of superstitions and works for the welfare of low-income employees in the film industry. He was also a part of the Film Industry for Rights and Equality (FIRE), which tackles sexual harassment in the workplace