Chennai man denied dignified burial in Puducherry, body dumped into pit

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A video of the undignified and heart-rending burial for a 42-year-old Chennai man who died of COVID-19 in Puducherry went viral on Saturday causing anguish among the people. Fearing virus infection, no relatives turned up for the last rites; and the personnel from the health, revenue, and panchayat departments later took the body in an ambulance and dumped it at the burial ground of Villianur Commune panchayat.

According to sources, the man from Thousand Lights area of Chennai had come to Puducherry in a cab to see his wife in his in-laws’ house. His wife, who is from Gopalankadai in Villianur Commune in Puducherry, got stranded with her child in her parental home due to lockdown for the past two months. After reaching his father in law’s house, he developed chest pain, following which he was rushed to Indira Gandhi Government General Hospital and Post Graduate Institute (IGGGHPGI).

He was declared brought dead and subsequently found to be COVID-19 positive. His family did not wish to participate in the funeral. Later, the body was taken to Gopalamkadai burial ground by ambulance with health, police and revenue officials and handed over to Villianur Commune panchayat officials.

The body was taken out on the stretcher and dumped into a pit dug earlier for the purpose. There was no arrangement for lowering the body into the pit. Two personnel, who carried the body to the pit, were seen wearing the PPE suits but the hoods and goggles were missing.

Expressing regret over the incident, Director of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. S Mohan Kumar explained: The incident happened as the personnel from local bodies were not used to COVID burial. Since the pit was 15-metre deep, there was a lot of earth around it which made it difficult for the personnel to stand there to lower the body.