Outside the mortuary in Auraiya Sunday afternoon, 43-year-old Sudama Yadav stared at the blocks of ice, the meltwater darting around in dark streaks on the floor.
Inside, the post-mortem examiners were still at work. A farm hand from Palamu in Jharkhand, Sudama said he had paid Rs 19,000 to a car driver who had brought him and his brother-in-law Guddu Yadav to Auraiya.
They were here to collect the body of Sudama’s eldest, 21-year-old Nitish, one of 25 killed early Saturday in a collision between two vehicles carrying migrants headed home from Rajasthan and Delhi.
Nitish used to work at a marble factory in Jaipur. “I last spoke to my son around 8 pm Friday. He said he had boarded a truck for Gaya (Bihar) and would reach the next day,” Sudama said.
“On Saturday morning, I saw on TV that there had been an accident and that one of the trucks involved was coming from Rajasthan. I tried calling my son, but his phone was switched off. I called another person who worked with Nitish and he told me that my son was no more.”
The man who drove Sudama and Guddu to Auraiya returned to Jharkhand with the car after Sudama was told that the district administration would ensure transportation of his son’s body – the body was later placed in an air-conditioned ambulance for the journey home.
Sudama has a daughter who has just completed school and a younger son in Class VIII. “Nitish, the eldest, dropped out after Class VII because he wanted to help bring money home. He had not been paid for two months after the lockdown. On May 13, I sent him Rs 3,000 so that he could return,” he said.
While officials at the mortuary said some bodies had already been dispatched in trucks after being placed on blocks of ice, Auraiya Addl SP Kamlesh Kumar Dixit said no body was sent in an open truck. “Some were sent in covered DCM trucks, some in SUVs, but none in an open truck,” he said.
Station House Officer Dinesh Kumar said: “We turned to the injured to help identify the bodies. Some were also identified with the help of paper chits in their pockets that had phone numbers. The entire process is over. Barring two bodies, all have been sent. Constables are accompanying the bodies,” he said.
Vikas Kalindi and four relatives placed the body of his brother and ten others in a truck for the journey to Chas in Bokaro district.
“We didn’t sleep Saturday, we just waited for the bodies. It was only when we started carrying the bodies that the authorities rushed to help,” said Vikas whose brother Ranjan Kalindi died in the accident.
His uncle, Umesh Kalindi, and three others from their village sustained injuries. “He (Ranjan) died under a truck and now his body is also going home on a truck. There is no dignity in death,” he said.
In Bokaro, family members of Govardhan Kalindi, among the dead, were also agitated. Brother Salbo Kalindi said: “Vikas sent me videos, photos of how the bodies were being brought. This is completely unacceptable. I hope the body does not decompose. The truck will not reach before Monday,” he said.
The Jharkhand government too called the entire episode “inhuman”.
“The sending of dead bodies in trucks is inhuman and lacks empathy. I request the UP and Bihar CMs to send the bodies in better condition till Jharkhand where the district administration and police will take care of the injured and give dignity to the deceased,” Chief Minister Hemant Soren said.
He announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 4 lakh to the family of each of the 11 from Jharkhand who died and Rs 50,000 to each injured.
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