Jibon Mia is one of the unsung heroes in this time of the novel coronavirus pandemic. He is a gravedigger at the Khilgaon-Taltola Graveyard where Covid-19 victims are being buried.
The gravediggers here say they are burying a lot of people as the virus death toll is rising. Jibon and his three coworkers can barely take a break to eat as they have to work from morning till late at night.
Around 150 bodies, of Covid-19 victims and deceased individuals suspected of having had the virus, have been buried in this graveyard till April 26.
Jibon, who has never been this busy in his life as a gravedigger, said: "We only had some respite in the last two days. Yesterday we buried eight corpses and seven the day before that."
"However, previously we had to bury 10-14 bodies every day. And we needed to use an excavator to dig graves."
Tazina Sarwar, social welfare officer at Dhaka North City Corporation, said, "The graveyard's soil is so hard that it takes a lot of time and strength to dig a grave.
"So we have to use an excavator to dig the soil and then the workers prepare the grave.
The gravediggers are also facing a precarious situation of their own. The pandemic is giving them sleepless nights as they now fear the risk of contracting Covid-19.
"Five of the nine workers fled last month. The rest of us stayed as the authority assured us they would take all the responsibility of protecting us and gave us incentives," said Jibon.
"If any of us is infected with the virus, he will receive compensation as well."
About safety measures, Jibon said, "We always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) from – morning till night. The authority gave each of us three sets of PPE which have to be worn while handling bodies of Covid-19 cases. Some other volunteer organisations also gave us safety kits.
"We use PPE for two or three days and then burn it. Also, we disinfect it with spray and keep it under the sun for a while after every use."
Asked about funeral prayers, Mohrar (Registrar) of Taltola Graveyard Md Ferdous said, "Al-Markazul Islami Bangladesh, a volunteer organisation, arranges the prayers and the imam of our mosque also joins them. Rarely, one or two relatives of the deceased join the prayers as well."
"Al-Markazul brings the bodies here and places them in the grave while our four workers place bamboo and pour soil on it," he added.
Tazina said, "Three volunteer organisations are taking care of the Covid-19 victims. Among them, Al-Markazul is well-organised and handling most of the cases. Two other organisations are Quantum and Rahmat-e-ilahi.
"Two city corporations are also providing these organisations with incentives.
"The gravediggers have saved us from big trouble in this time of crisis, exceeding our expectations. And we are providing them with a good incentive too."