Allegations of bodies being kept in the open and the kin of the deceased being asked to pay for ice slabs to protect them from decomposition in Aligarh have come to light.
Parveen Begum, sister of Shareef Ahmed, told reporters that her brother passed away on June 18 under suspicious circumstances and the body was kept in the mortuary till June 22 because the district administration suspected him to be COVID-19 positive.
“We were asked to pay ₹500 per day for the ice slabs to prevent the body from decomposing. He was buried only after his report came out to be negative,” she could be heard saying in a video that went viral.
On Sunday, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra tweeted about the issue, citing local media reports.
In another case, the body of Mukhtyar who was allegedly killed during a fracas in the Jalesar area of Etah district, was also kept for five days as the mortuary officials allegedly wanted to check if he was COVID-free or not before conducting the post-mortem.
Mohd. Yasin, the nephew of the deceased, alleged that they were made to wait despite a medical report from Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital saying that he was not a COVID suspect. “The official at the mortuary still wanted his sample to be sent to JNMCH,” he alleged.
Ravi Kant Dixit, the pharmacist at the mortuary and the official who addresses the media, said: “The mortuary has arrangement to keep six bodies in deep freezers. In mid-June, one of the freezers developed a fault and the electrician could not address the problem because of the fear of COVID-19. Unfortunately, during that period, the inflow of bodies had also increased. Now, the problem has been rectified and bodies are not being kept in the open.”
On officials asking the kin of the deceased to pay for the ice slabs, Mr. Dixit said: “Keeping the bodies secure till the post-mortem is the job of the police. We have no role in this.”
He added that sometimes the post-mortems got delayed because JNMCH could not send the report in time.
Senior Superintendent of Police Muniraj P. said the police had no role in the affairs of the post-mortem house. “It is the doctors who declare whether a deceased should be tested for COVID-19 or not.”
JNMCH principal Shahid Siddiqui said: “If the administration wants a test report on priority, it could convey it to us. The workload is high as we are testing samples from the neighbouring districts as well. As per the State government order, no post- mortem is required for those who have died of COVID-19. Even if the officials suspect a deceased to be COVID positive, they could perform the last rites according to protocol, the report could wait.”
There are grey areas, he said, in cases of deaths where the post-mortem is a must, which should be addressed.
The Chief Medical Officer didn’t respond to the queries despite repeated attempts.