COPS TURN UNDERTAKERS FOR UNCLAIMED BODIES

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Every police station has performed last rites of three or four people during lockdown, officer says. Mirror meets four constables who have conducted nine funerals between them


With many families unwilling or unable to conduct the last rites of their deceased relatives – whether infected with Covid-19 or not – the police have stepped in as makeshift cremators, sometimes live-streaming the last rites for relatives outside Mumbai. Mirror spoke to four constables who have conducted several cremations over the past two months and found that while some families were unwilling to accept the bodies of their deceased relatives, perhaps out of fear of contracting Covid-19, others were unable to conduct the funerals as they were outside Mumbai. In some cases, the police and BMC were simply unable to find any relatives of the deceased.

A senior police officer said, “Policemen deployed at every station have been given the task of cremating such bodies. Every police station in the city has performed the last rites of at least three of four people during the lockdown on humanitarian grounds and some policemen and women have performed the last rites of several people themselves.”

constable Rita Jadhav has cremated two bodies

constable Rita Jadhav has cremated two bodies

Constable Subhash Shinde from Virar police station recently conducted the last rites of 43-year-old real estate agent Pramod Khare, whose body was found in his flat in Virar East earlier this month. Not only did Shinde spend his own money on the funeral, he streamed the last rites for his relatives – in Delhi and other parts of the country – over a video call.

On May 6, when Shinde learned that Khare’s body had been found in a flat in Virar East, he went there and took it to a hospital. The post mortem revealed Khare had died of a heart attack. Shinde meanwhile contacted his family members in Delhi and other parts of the country. Unable to travel because of the lockdown, they requested Shinde to perform the last rites.

Constable Sandhya Shilvant has cremated six bodies, including four in one day

Constable Sandhya Shilvant has cremated six bodies, including four in one day

On May 8, Shinde took the body to a crematorium and performed the rites, following all the rituals the family had requested and even live-streaming it so they could see Khare’s body one last time. Shinde said he spent Rs 2,000 from his own pocket on the funeral but did not expect anything in return. When the family offered to return the money, he refused.

On May 8, Shinde took the body to a crematorium and performed the rites, following all the rituals the family had requested and even live-streaming it so they could see Khare’s body one last time. Shinde said he spent Rs 2,000 from his own pocket on the funeral but did not expect anything in return. When the family offered to return the money, he refused.

“These are difficult times for everyone and I did this considering the helplessness of the victim’s family members. I considered myself another son of Khare’s mother and did this. He lived alone and was unmarried. It looked like he had died more than a day before he was found,” Shinde told Mirror.

Another constable, Sandhya Shilvant from Shahu Nagar police station, has performed the last rites of six people over the past two months, including four in a single day. One of the six was a woman who had tested positive for Covid- 19 and whose family could not be traced.

“Since the lockdown began, we have found the bodies of six people, including a woman with Covid-19 whose relatives could not be found. At the start of the month I conducted two funerals. Later, four more dead bodies were reported from our jurisdiction. One of them was found to be corona-positive. But I did not take a step back and decided to perform her last rites too, under the supervision of senior police officers,” Shilvant said. She said she would conduct more such funerals if required to, adding, “It is important to give everyone a proper funeral, even those who we don’t know.”

Though I did not know them, it was my duty to give them a proper funeral so that their souls rest in peace

Constable Rita Jadhav, Bandra police station

Constable Rita Jadhav from Bandra police station has performed the last rites of two people – a man and a woman – whose bodies were found on the road and taken to Bhabha hospital earlier this month. The police said they had identified the bodies and the post mortem said they died of natural causes. The bodies were shifted to Cooper hospital while the police began trying to track down their relatives. However, they soon realised the two had no known relatives. Two weeks later, with no one coming forward to claim the bodies, the police decided to cremate them. Jadhav took on the responsibility and on May 15 took the bodies to the Oshiwara crematorium, where she conducted their funerals.

“No one claimed the bodies, so after following the procedure we decided to perform their last rites ourselves. I wore a full PPE kit and cremated the bodies with the help of a staffer there,” Jadhav told Mirror. She added, “Though I did not know them, it was my duty to give them a proper funeral so that their souls rest in peace.”



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