COVID-19: Bhayander migrant's body rots at morgue as AC malfunctions

Updated: May 19, 2020, 07:23 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

For three days, the temperature inside the mortuary is around 18 degree Celsius instead of 5; his COVID-19 test result is still awaited

(Inset) Harish Chander Shankarlal; (right) the staffers kept three trays in the sun hoping the stench would go away. Pic/Hanif Patel
(Inset) Harish Chander Shankarlal; (right) the staffers kept three trays in the sun hoping the stench would go away. Pic/Hanif Patel

The body of Harish Chander Shankarlal, who died last week, is decomposing in a mortuary in Virar West, as the air-conditioner has been malfunctioning for the past three days. The staff said they informed the authorities soon after the AC first malfunctioned, but nothing has been done yet.

The 45-year-old migrant worker walked/ran 30 km to catch a special train to Rajasthan but collapsed and died near the Vasai Road railway station on Thursday. His body was kept at the mortuary in Virat Nagar as the authorities still await his COVID-19 test report. The cleaning staff told mid-day on Monday that the bodies of Shankarlal and another unidentified person is rotting as "the AC is not functioning properly".

"The ideal temperature should be 5 to 6 degree Celsius but it is around 18 to 20 degree Celsius. We informed the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation, but it hasn't been repaired yet. The stench is so bad, we cannot go inside for cleaning," said an employee.

Shankarlal's relatives, who came to Virar from Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan, to collect his body, complained that the officials are dissuading them from taking the body home. They also questioned the delay in sample collection. The rural health officials collected samples for COVID-19 test two days after his death and sent it to JJ Hospital. Bahujan Vikas Aghadi Mayor Praveen Shetty said, "We have learnt about the technical glitch at the mortuary in Virar west. The steps are being taken to get it repaired at the earliest."

Sources told mid-day that "due to work overload, the report is getting delayed".

"We have travelled 1,500 km in this lockdown. You can understand how desperate we are," said Jaiprakash Jangir, deceased's younger brother. "First, they delayed sample collection, then there is a delay in issuance of report, and now his body has started to decompose. The hospital and the mortuary staffers have been forcing us to dispose of the body in Virar," he added.

A source at the municipal hospital attached to the mortuary said they have advised the family to cremate him in Virar because it is not wise to transport the body to another state during a pandemic. He said the electricity department is in charge of the maintenance of the AC at the mortuary. "We informed the VVCMC commissioner and a team of electricians came to repair it."

The Medical Health Officer at Virar Dr Tabbassum Kazi said, "We cannot handover Shankarlal's body to his relatives until we get the COVID-19 report."

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