Help crematorium workers in India survive COVID

As India grapples with the largest COVID outbreak in the world , bodies are piling up faster than crematorium workers can handle. Oxygen and ICU bed shortages are wiping out entire families, and crematorium workers are bearing the brunt of it all. They're working back-to-back shifts and inhaling noxious cremation smoke wearing little or no PPE.  A damning report  by Yashee Singh in the national newspaper Indian Express details the horrific  conditions crematorium workers have endured during this disaster. 

Crematorium workers, many of whom belong to impoverished Dalit ('untouchable' caste) and Muslim communities, clock 16 hour shifts each day in 100 degree weather.  The workers are not paid any overtime or hazard pay despite taking on this life-threatening work. They're only making $5/day, their regular salary during non-COVID times, despite longer shifts and hazardous work conditions. It is a labor atrocity! 

As a South Asian organizer, I'm raising money to supplement the income of cremation workers in India so they can buy health insurance & provide for their families to survive the crisis. I have teamed up with concerned journalists, lawyers, social workers and community organizers in Calcutta, Noida, Chennai, and Bangalore (Crematorium Worker Solidarity Group) to distribute the funds directly to workers. We plan to hand every worker at least $150 each so they can afford health insurance, medications, and drinking water to survive.

Individual organizers who have agreed to volunteer their time to this project in India have pre-existing relationships with crematorium workers in their cities. At present, they are identifying workers in need of help at work-sites. I plan to transfer funds to the lead organizer in every city after this step is complete. The lead organizer and their team of 2-3 volunteers will then directly hand workers $150/person so they can purchase health insurance (Arogya Sanjeevani public health insurance costs ~$55/year), life insurance (private policies cost ~$80/year for $40k cover), medicines, clothes or other urgent family needs. Organizers may also purchase insurance on behalf of workers based on capacity. Part of the funds will also be used to purchase and deliver bottled drinking water and hot meals for workers at their work-sites. The breakdown of funds is as follows: $33,000 distributed $150 per worker, $1000 for bottled drinking water, $500 for meals, $500 other misc expenses. 

 No one deserves to be exploited and subjected to inhumane working conditions during a crisis. With the absence of social safety nets, cremation workers urgently need your support to survive the pandemic. Please donate generously, your kindness will help save the workers' lives. 

Love and Solidarity, 

Raya Steier
Pronouns: They/Them
Community Organizer in San Francisco, CA

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Raya Steier 
San Francisco, CA
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