Unsung hero: This 27-year-old has performed last rites of 110 Covid victims

Express News Service

RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM: Carrying dead bodies of COVID patients from hospitals and even homes has become a routine affair for Mallisetti Bharat Raghava, a resident of Bommuru in Rajamahendravaram, Andhra Pradesh. Since the start of the pandemic, the 27-year-old along with a couple of his friends has performed the last rites of at least 110 deceased persons irrespective of their religion. 

"When I was in college, my father died of illness in Visakhapatnam. We did not have money to shift the body to Rajamahendravaram and had to keep the body for one full day. It was then that I decided that the dead need a decent farewell and started helping those who can’t afford it," he says.

An MBA graduate, he owns a goods truck to eke out a livelihood.Raghava doesn’t demand any money but will accept any amount that people give for performing the last rites. “I spend the amount on fuel and buying PPE kits for ourselves or for the funeral material”, he explains.

During the first wave of the pandemic, which saw several people abandon dead bodies of their kith and kin in morgues, Raghava was called by the hospital managements to perform the final rites as bodies started to pile up.  "In the initial days, I faced resistance and was stigmatised by neighbours. But that died down as days passed by. People began to understand that coronavirus is universal and nobody is immune to it," he says.

"There were instances where the family members contracted the virus and could not perform the last rites. I took the responsibility to arrange for the funeral," he says adding that it is quite painful to see that people were not even in a position to bid farewell to their family members.

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