West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Thursday, June 11, sought a report from the West Bengal government after a video showing decomposed bodies which were alleged to be COVID-19 victims, being dragged and loaded into a van by civic workers for cremation went viral on social media.
The video caused massive public outrage questioning the insensitive handling of the dead bodies and an undignified cremation by the Mamata Banerjee government.
Governor Dhankar took to Twitter to express concern and sought a report from the state home secretary on the incident.
"Anguished at the disposal of dead bodies with heartless indescribable insensitivity. Not sharing videos due to sensitivity. In our society, the dead body is accorded highest respect - rituals are performed as per tradition," he said in a tweet.
In yet another post, the Governor said, "Response @HomeSecretaryWB has come. Virtual admission about callous handling of dead bodies promising procedure will be streamlined. Rather than booking those responsible for such inhuman criminality, the police are being misused to 'teach a lesson' to those who exposed it."
The video reportedly also showed the locals of Garia, a district in the southern part of the city where the incident had allegedly taken place protest against the cremation claiming that the bodies were of coronavirus patients.
News18 reported that the video recorded Kolkata Municipal Corporation personnel loading the decomposed bodies into a van outside the Garia crematorium while locals protesting against cremation of several bodies at a crematorium located closely to a densely populated locality.
The locals allegedly cited potential health concern amid rising coronavirus cases in the state. Kolkata police in a statement denied the claims that the bodies were of COVID-19 patients.
"The West Bengal Health Department has informed that dead bodies were not of COVID patients, but were unclaimed/unidentified bodies from Hospital Morgue. Legal action is being taken against persons spreading #FakeNews (sic)," the Kolkata Police said in a tweet.
State government-run NRS Medical College Principal, Saibal Kumar Mukherjee, also wrote to Kolkata Police Commissioner providing clarification that the unclaimed bodies were handed over to the KMC as per the list provided by different police stations under the jurisdiction of the hospital's morgue.
"And none of these bodies were of COVID patients. The subject of this video is fake, and you may take necessary action in this regard," Mukherjee said in his letter.
City mayor Firhad Hakim assured of looking into the incident and added that bodies of COVID-19 victims in the city were being cremated at a separate burning ground at Dhapa in its eastern fringes, reported India Today.
Notably, the Governor slammed the state police and health department's justification saying even though the decomposed bodies were not of COVID-19 victims, it is the duty of the government to ensure proper handling of the dead bodies and provide a dignified cremation/ burial which forms part of a citizen's right to life and must be protected.
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