The Elphinstone Road stampede, which claimed 22 lives, has once again opened up the debate on the protocol for post-mortems in cases of mass casualties. As per the norms under the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), in cases where the cause of death is evident, a sample post-mortem should suffice for all the bodies. However, in this case, the police and railway officials demanded autopsies for each of the 22 victims.

Grieving relatives waited all day at KEM Hospital, but not even half the bodies were handed over last evening. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Grieving relatives waited all day at KEM Hospital, but not even half the bodies were handed over last evening. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Long wait for kin
Because of this, only seven bodies had been handed over to the families by 6.30 pm.

A mortuary attendant at KEM said, "We are hoping that till late night another six to seven bodies will be released. Two bodies remain unidentified."

The civic health department also roped in teams from the BYL Nair and LTMG hospitals, but they were sent back as KEM's forensic team could manage themselves.

Bhavesh Patel, who is a part of the high court-appointed committee to study railway accidents, said, "It is very evident that the death was due to the stampede. There was no reason for conducting post-mortem, which achieves nothing except to make the already traumatised relatives go through a long wait for the body."

He added, "I will raise my concern during our Public Interest Litigation (PIL) Monitoring Committee meeting, along with stake holders of railways. In cases of mass casualty, the NDRF rules should be in practice. If the NDRF team is called in for rescue operations, then why weren't the NDRF norms followed?"

Other side
Dr Avinash Supe, dean of KEM hospital and director of medical education, said, "We were asked by the police and railway officials to conduct post-mortem for each victim. They said there will be a high-level probe on the incident by the railway safety commissioner and it is important to ascertain the exact cause of death, as there were rumours about short circuit, bridge collapse, etc, that led to the stampede."


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