An incident of a half-eaten unclaimed human body, lying out in the open at the Bhaucharaji crematorium in Vadodara has brought out the lack of concern shown by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) in ensuring dignified burial for the deceased. The civic authority blamed the police and the civic hospital — responsible for the burial of unclaimed bodies — for “not following instructions”.
The crematorium (popularly called the Khaaswadi Shamshan), in its current state, paints a sorry picture with several dismembered and decomposing body parts lying about. The incident came to light on Wednesday after the local caretaker of the crematorium discovered a half-eaten body near the bushes. As local activists reached the spot, several more skeletal remains were found scattered about. Activists said incidents of dogs pulling out and eating up buried bodies is common, with the civic authorities turning a blind eye to the serious public health risk. 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 unclaimed bodies in a hygienic and respectful manner. But as it is visible, the bodies are simply dumped amidst the bushes, attracting the strays.”
Several dismembered body parts are visible across the area, emitting a foul stench. According to the caretaker of the crematorium, at least three bodies were pulled out and eaten by stray dogs in the area. “There are about 70 stray dogs that enter the compound and eat whatever part they find. Sometimes they dig out bodies that are not buried appropriately. When we point it out to the authorities, we are asked to go about our job,” the caretaker, who did not wish to be identified, said.
When contacted, VMC Health Officer Dr Devesh Patel said that the civic body was not responsible for the incident of stray dogs pulling out bodies. “The burial and disposal of unclaimed 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. He added that the civic body “lacked the mechanism” to check on the 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 deceased. If there is no crime, the police does not have any role. Ensuring hygienic disposal of bodies comes under the purview of the civic body.”
Vadodara’s SSG hospital, where the morgue with unclaimed bodies is located, said the 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 at the 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 such bodies, it is essential that both the hospital and the civic body sit and formulate a policy.” The SSG hospital receives about 10 unclaimed bodies per month. Rules say the bodies cannot be handed over to medical colleges for teaching and practical purposes, as they are medico-legal cases, he says.