The Mumbai civic body on Monday favoured cremation of the bodies of all those who died due to coronavirus in the city irrespective of their religion, but said burials will be allowed subject to certain conditions.
Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation commissioner Praveen Pardeshi issued a circular in this regard but the document was revised later to permit burial if certain conditions are fulfilled like availability of a large site.
Only five persons can attend the funeral of a COVID-19 patient and rituals of touching the body should be avoided, said the circular.
"Rituals involving touching the body should be avoided," it said.
Highlighting the reason for cremation, the circular said existing burial grounds in Mumbai are located in densely populated areas. This increases the chances of contamination in areas nearby.
According to the circular, the procedure of packing the body in plastic bag and burying it prevents its quick composition and entails the risk of further spread of the virus.
"Hence, all the bodies should be cremated to avoid transmission chances in community. Burial should not be allowed, " it said.
The circular also directs BMC officials to communicate this to local leaders, besides asking hospital authorities to inform the local police station before handing over the body for last rites.
The circular also instructs cemetery staff to cremate the bodies using protective gears like masks and gloves.
In the revised circular issued later, the BMC permitted burial within Mumbai only "if the burial grounds are large enough so as not to create possibility of spread of virus in neighbouring areas."
"Copies of the guidelines will be issued to persons concerned in such cases or which they will be solely and fully responsible," said the circular.
So far, Mumbai has recorded 126 cases of COVID-19, of which six patients died while undergoing treatment.
Earlier, Maharashtra minister for minority development Nawab Malik intervened and asked the BMC to amend its circular that insisted on cremation of the bodies irrespective of the faith of the deceased person.
He said the circular was issued without giving proper thought.
Malik said, "Pardeshi had cited WHO guidelines but there is also a provision of carrying out burials if large plot is available. I told him enough space is available at Kurla burial ground, which can be used."
Malik later tweeted: "This is to bring to your kind attention that I have spoken to @mybmc Commissioner Mr Praveen Pardeshi regarding the circular issued by him for cremation of those who have lost their lives due to the #Coronavirus. The said circular has now been withdrawn."