At a time when family members are forced to stay away from their deceased relatives for fear of contracting the coronavirus, the Ekta Trust in Surat has performed the last rites and buried more than 1,200 patients who died of Covid-19 since March this year. RC Surat Riverside, RID 3060, recognised the organisation with the Vocational Excellence Award “for their exemplary humanitarian endeavour, devotion and contribution to mankind during these difficult times,” said the club’s past president Dr Prashant Kariya.
Abdul Rehman Malbari, president of the Trust, said that in the last three decades he and his team had disposed of over 70,000 unclaimed bodies of people who lost their lives in accidents, natural disasters such as the Kutch earthquake, tsunami and the floods in Surat, J&K and Uttarakhand, in addition to reaching out to the impoverished who could not afford a decent farewell for their loved ones.
Recalling the first Covid death he handled, Malbari said, “in March, as I was cremating the body of a beggar, I got a call from the Surat municipal office. ‘Abdulbhai, a person has died of Covid at the Mahavir hospital. We need you to perform the last rites.’” He carried out the service in accordance with the dead person’s faith. Yousuf Barad, a team member added, “We do not fear Covid; but the way people ostracised us during the initial days was discouraging. Their mindset has now reversed after seeing us healthy despite handling so many dead bodies.” Another member, Mustaq said, “Our work gives us peace and solace. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for this noble work.”
Malbari appealed to the public not to discriminate against Covid patients and frontline workers and to shower them with more love and care.
The award presentation was telecast online for the club members. While club president Anand Acharya delivered the welcome address, secretary Jugal Shinglot thanked the audience.