A municipal commissioner and a sanitary inspector in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh were suspended on Friday after an earthmover was used to shift the body of a suspected Covid patient to cremation ground.
The 70-year-old had died on Thursday night with symptoms of coronavirus. After sanitising the locality, the civic staff had shifted the body to the crematorium on an earthmover. Following this, a video of the earthmover carrying the wrapped body and four others in PPEs went viral on social media.
Taking note of the incident and terming it an “inhuman act”, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office directed Srikakulam District Collector J Nivas to inquire into the matter and take suitable action against the guilty for gross violation of Covid-19 protocol while disposing of the body.
On CMO’s directive, District Collector J Nivas conducted an inquiry and suspended Palasa Municipal Commissioner P Nagendra Kumar and sanitary inspector N Rajeev.
Late in the evening, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy also tweeted about the same.
శ్రీకాకుళం జిల్లా, పలాసలో కోవిడ్ మృతదేహాన్ని జేసీబీతో తరలించిన ఘటన దిగ్భ్రాంతికి గురిచేసింది. మానవత్వాన్ని చూపాల్సిన సమయంలో కొంతమంది వ్యవహరించిన తీరు బాధించింది. ఇలాంటి ఘటనలు మరెక్కడా పునరావృత్తం కాకూడదు. బాధ్యుల పై కఠిన చర్యలు తీసుకోకతప్పదు.
— YS Jagan Mohan Reddy (@ysjagan) June 26, 2020
One of the key persons to call out the government for its treatment of bodies was opposition leader N Chandrababu Naidu. Sharing the video, he had tweeted: “Utterly shocked to see the deceased bodies of #Coronavirus victims wrapped in plastic & transported on JCBs & Tractors. They deserve respect & dignity even in death. Shame on @ysjagan. Govt for this inhumane treatment of the mortal remains.”(sic)
Utterly shocked to see the deceased bodies of #Coronavirus victims wrapped in plastic & transported on JCBs & Tractors. They deserve respect & dignity even in death. Shame on @ysjagan Govt for this inhumane treatment of the mortal remains pic.twitter.com/BobjAdIZC8
— N Chandrababu Naidu #StayHomeSaveLives (@ncbn) June 26, 2020
Kumar is learnt to have said that the civic staff acted upon pressure from the neighbours. When a hearse or ambulance was not available for shifting the body, the family members had given their consent to use the earthmover that was available. Repeated calls to Nagendra Kumar for a response went unanswered.
According to District Collector Nivas, the deceased is yet to be confirmed for Covid-19 and it was only preliminary examination after death that suggested Covid.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, the collector said it is the absolute responsibility of the local body and the government to ensure a decent cremation. “If the non-availability of vehicles was brought to our notice, we would have arranged a vehicle. It is not the first case of a suspected Covid death. We have had six such deaths and ensured a proper burial or cremation,” the collector reasoned.
Explaining further, he said that in some cases, no family members are available and the government takes care of the entire cremation. And if the family members are available but not in a position to take care of cremation, we assist them, said the collector.
“Here, the disturbing point is that the family members were present there and they did not object to this. Maybe they were not in the position [to object] or they thought it is good enough. It is not good enough. It is our responsibility to give a decent burial or cremation,” he said, adding that it was a clear lack of understanding and negligence on part of the civic body. The incident took place under the notice of the Municipal Commissioner and hence action was taken
against him, he said.
In a similar incident, the body of an elderly woman who died of suspected coronavirus infection was shifted to the cremation/burial ground in a tractor on June 24. The video of the same was widely shared on social media. Asked about the incident from Sompeta, the collector said that such a practice exists but was unacceptable. “We are inquiring into it and action will be taken,” he added.
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