Kolkata: Two video clips showing workers of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) dragging highly decomposed bodies in a residential area in south Kolkata to a crematorium surfaced on social media Thursday, stoking controversy.
The KMC and police, however, said those were not Covid patients’ bodies and they were lying unclaimed at a government hospital’s morgue for over a week.
But local residents were furious over the way the bodies were being dragged through a residential area for cremation in broad daylight.
The incident took place Wednesday when the KMC brought 14 bodies in its vehicle to cremate them at Garia Adi Mahashasan. But after protest by local residents, the KMC went back with the bodies.
‘Scariest and goriest scene’
According to a local resident, a KMC truck brought over a dozen bodies to Garia’s Boral crematorium Wednesday afternoon and a KMC worker then started dragging one body after another by a hook-like stick towards the crematorium.
“They were emitting foul smell. It was the goriest and scariest scene one can ever experience. We protested and asked why the bodies were being dragged like this. We thought those were Covid-positive bodies. Even if it is not of someone who is Covid-positive, how can they drag bodies such disgracefully,” he asked.
The bodies had decomposed to such an extent that they turned into skeletons.
Following protest by residents, local CPM councillor Chayan Bhattacharya rushed to the spot to pacify them and the KMC then went back with the bodies.
“This is unfortunate that the KMC did not keep me in the loop. The crematorium is located in my ward and I should have been consulted. Moreover, there is a standard protocol of disposing unclaimed bodies. It was obscene and the KMC cannot bring such rotten bodies in a residential area like this. We do not know if these were Corona or non-Corona bodies, but nobody should be treated so disgracefully. I am with the locals on this,” added Bhattacharya.
Bodies were lying unclaimed at NRS hospital
The bodies were handed over to the KMC by NRS Medical College and Hospital for cremation as they were unclaimed. The hospital refuted claims that those were Covid victims’ bodies.
Saibal Mukherjee, principal of the hospital, wrote to Anuj Sharma, CP, Kolkata, Thursday, saying some people were claiming those were bodies of Covid patients.
But it is a fake claim and police may take necessary action, the letter stated.
It also said 14 unclaimed bodies were handed over to the KMC for disposal.
Kolkata Police also tweeted the bodies “were not of Covid patients” and legal action is being taken against those spreading rumours.
Talking to The Print, Murlidhar Sharma, Joint CP (crime), Kolkata Police, said, “Health department has informed us that the bodies were unidentified and unclaimed. Hospital, as per protocol, sends such bodies for cremation or disposal after 15 days if no claimant comes forward.”
“It is a false claim that some people are making by calling it bodies of Covid-19 patients,” he added.
A senior official of KMC, who didn’t want to be named, also said the bodies were not of Covid victims.
The official added the civic body issued an order last month, stating all unclaimed bodies will now be cremated at Garia Adi Mahasasan as Dhapa crematorium located near EM Bypass will be exclusively used to cremate Covid victims.
Indescribable insensitivity: Governor
Meanwhile, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted, describing the incident as “heartless indescribable insensitivity”.
“Rather than booking those responsible for such inhuman criminality, police is being misused to ‘teach a lesson’ to those who exposed it,” he added.
“We are not a police State. To inject such fear in public is authoritarianism. Repressive measures do not augur well for democracy. Will be seeking details @MamataOfficial & take to logical end. Muzzling of media or people by police arm twisting will not work anymore,” he said.
Response @HomeSecretaryWB has come. Virtual admission about callous handling of dead bodies promising procedure will be stream lined.
Rather than booking those responsible for such inhuman criminality, police is being misused to ‘teach a lesson’ to those who exposed it.(1/3)
— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) June 11, 2020