Hindu clergymen in South Africa overloaded for funerals for COVID-19 victims

Taking advantage of the fearful atmosphere in South Africa amid a second wave and new variant of the COVID-19 virus, some Hindu priests in the country are allegedly charging exorbitant fees for conducting funerals of coronavirus victims.

Pradeep Ramlall, a member of the Hindu Dharma Association of South Africa and manager of the Clare Estate Crematorium in Durban, said the priests are under fire for charging between R 1,200 (US $ 79) and R 2,000 (US $ 131) for conducting a funeral .

That is not right. According to our scriptures, this is our service to the community. If a family wants to give a donation to a priest, then that’s acceptable, but priests shouldn’t incriminate people, he told the Weekly Post as he hit the priests who overcharged.

Ramlall said the organization had received a number of complaints from people whose relatives had succumbed to the fatal infection.

In recent weeks, faced with a second wave and a new variant of the COVID-19 virus, the crematorium has had to introduce double shifts in daily deaths in the city, which is home to more than a third of the South African population of Indian descent of approximately 1.4 million.

I was in my vehicle. The priest had conducted a funeral for the COVID-19 victims. While in the parking lot, he pulled 100 rand (USD 6.6) out of his pocket and counted them before cleaning up each bill and putting the money back in his pocket. Ramlall told of an incident that he had personally witnessed.

He urged the community not to be exploited in the current difficult circumstances that troubled so many families and asked them to carry out the cremation themselves.

We recorded videos for you to use. If they insist on having a priest, the priest can conduct the funeral through Zoom or a WhatsApp video call. We have to adapt to technology, said Ramlall.

South African President of the Hindu Maha Sabha, Ashwin Trikamjee, said they had a list of accredited priests on the Sabhas Facebook page that families could contact to conduct the final rites for free.

Citing the massive spike in COVID-19-related deaths, Trikamjee said funerals would be held at odd times by priests using their own transportation and personal protective equipment (PPE) for which they might expect reimbursement although families would not be required to pay.

Previously, Lucy Sigaban, a Hindu priestess in the sprawling Indian suburb of Lenasia, near Johannesburg, had urged the government to free priests who conduct funerals of COVID-19 victims by providing them with free PPE, which has already happened .

Over the past two months, COVID-19 infections and deaths in South Africa have increased exponentially.

On Thursday alone, 647 deaths and over 11,000 other infections were reported, bringing the total to 39,501 deaths and 1.38 million infections since the first case was reported in March last year.

The government is waiting for over 15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be shipped from India within the next month to give priority to health care workers and other primary care workers.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by the federal staff and was automatically published from a syndicated feed.)

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