An incident of a half-eaten unclaimed human body, buried at the Bhauchraji crematorium in Vadodara by the civic hospital, has brought to light the sheer apathy of the VMC in ensuring a hygienic and respectful burial of the dead. While the civic authority blamed the police and the civic hospital for “not following instructions”, several dismembered decomposing parts of human bodies have painted a sorry and unhygienic picture of Vadodara’s crematorium, popularly called the Khaaswadi Shamshan.
The incident came to light on Wednesday after the local caretaker of the Bhauchraji crematorium ground discovered a half-eaten human body near the bushes. As activists in the city reached the spot, several more skeletal human remains were found scattered around the crematorium where the civic hospitals dispose of the unclaimed bodies by way of burials. Activists said the incidents of dogs pulling out and eating up buried unclaimed human bodies is common, with the civic authorities turning a blind eye to the imminent health disaster.
Activist Atul Gamechi, who reached the spot on Wednesday said, “This is not the first time that such an incident has come to light. There is a certain procedure that must be followed for disposing of the unclaimed bodies in a hygienic and respectful manner. But as it is visible, the bodies are simply dumped amidst the bushes, attracting strays who enter and eat the bodies.” Several dismembered parts of the human body are visible across the area, emitting a stench of decomposing bodies. According to the caretaker of the crematorium, at least three human bodies were pulled out and eaten up by stray dogs in the area. “There are about 70 stray dogs that enter the compound and eat whatever part they find or dig out the bodies that are not buried appropriately. When we point out to the authorities, we are asked to go about our job,” the caretaker, who does not wish to be identified, said.
When contacted, VMC Health Officer Dr. Devesh Patel said that the VMC was “not responsible” for the incident of stray dogs pulling out the dead bodies. Patel said, “The burial and disposal of unclaimed human bodies is not the responsibility of the VMC. It is the duty of the police department and the civic hospitals where autopsy is conducted, to ensure that the disposal is appropriate. We cannot be expected to keep checking if they have disposed of the bodies appropriately or not. They are given instructions to bury the bodies deep to prevent dogs from digging them out.” Patel said that the civic body “lacked mechanism” to check on the unclaimed disposed bodies.
Commissioner of Police E Radhakrishana denied that the police was responsible for the burial of unclaimed bodies. Radhakrishana said, “The police comes into the picture only to make sure that there is no crime related to the unclaimed body. If there is no crime, the police does not have any role. As far as disposing of the bodies hygienically is concerned, it is the duty of the civic body to keep a check.”
Vadodara’s SSG hospital, where the morgue with unclaimed bodies is located, said the unclaimed bodies were disposed off as per government guidelines, but no specific instructions had been received from the VMC. Dr. Bijoy Singh of the Forensic Medicine Department of the SSG Hospital said, “When we have unclaimed bodies, we keep it in the cold room for 72 hours as per government rules. Thereafter, SSG hospital is defined as the contractor that looks after the disposal. However, there are no guidelines and the civic body is jointly responsible for the disposals but no one oversees the process. In absence of a guideline about the burial of unclaimed bodies, it is essential for both the hospital and the civic body to sit and formulate a policy.” The SSG hospital, Singh says, receives about 10 unclaimed bodies per month. As per rule, the unclaimed bodies cannot be handed over to medical colleges for teaching and practical purposes, as they are medico-legal cases, Singh said.