Two sets of photographs in two days, both from Odisha. The first, on Wednesday, showed a tribal from Kalahandi district carrying his wife’s body on his shoulders, as he could not afford a vehicle and the hospital authorities reportedly refused to make arrangements. The second, on Thursday, showed some hospital workers standing over the body of a woman, breaking her bones, before wrapping it in a sheet and slinging it on a bamboo pole in Balasore district.
Salamani Behera, an 80-year-old widow, died after she was run over by a goods train near Soro railway station, in Balasore district, early Wednesday morning. Her body was taken to the Soro Community Health Centre (CHC).
Although the Government Railway Police (GRP) was informed, its personnel reached the hospital only in the evening, almost 12 hours later. The body had to be taken to the Balasore district hospital for post-mortem, but no ambulance was available.
Soro GRP Assistant Sub-Inspector Pratap Rudra Mishra said he asked an auto-rickshaw driver to take the body to the railway station, so that it could be sent by train to Balasore, about 30 km away. “But the auto driver asked for Rs 3,500 while we cannot spend more than Rs 1,000 for such purposes. I had no other option but to ask some Grade IV workers of the Soho CHC to carry it,” said Mishra.
Due to the delay, rigor mortis had set in, making it difficult for the workers to tie the body. So they broke the body at the hip, wrapped it in an old sheet, tied it to a bamboo pole, and carried it to the railway station, which is about 2 km away.
The body was then taken to Balasore by train.
Behara’s son, Rabindra Barik, 60, said he was shocked when he heard about the way his mother’s body was treated. “They could have been a little more human. I initially thought of filing a case against the policemen. But who would act on our complaint,” he said.
Taking suo motu notice of the case, Odisha Human Rights Commission chairperson B K Mishra on Thursday issued notice to the Inspector General, GRP, and Balasore District Collector, asking them to order a probe into the incident and submit a report within four weeks.
Meanwhile, the Kalahandi district administration Thursday ordered a probe into the alleged denial of a vehicle to Dana Majhi, the tribal man from Kalahandi who carried his wife’s body on his shoulders for nearly 12 km. The probe report, submitted in the evening, gave a clean chit to the hospital authorities.
Embarrassed by the incident, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched a free hearse/ambulance van scheme called Mahaprayan, to be operational in 30 district hospitals and three medical colleges.