Mumbai railway cop gives dignity to unclaimed bodies
Since 2011, Nayna Devekar, a constable attached with Kurla GRP, has been ensuring that every unclaimed body found on railway tracks gets a proper funeral, even if that means chipping in with expenses
They may have had to lead their lives alone, but Nayna Devekar ensures that they have somebody with them at least on their final journey.
Nayna Devekar scans the list of deceased at railway stations and takes custody of the unclaimed bodies to perform their last rites. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
For more than three years now, the 33-year-old GRP constable has been ensuring that every unclaimed body found on the railway tracks in the city gets a proper funeral, even if that means that the money for it has to come out of her own pockets.
Nayna Devekar spends her duty hours warning people to stay off the railway tracks and helps conduct the last rites for unclaimed bodies found on the tracks when she is off duty
What’s more, Devekar makes sure that the last rites are conducted in strict accordance with the dictates of the deceased’s religion. Attached with the Kurla Government Railway Police since 2011, Devekar has laid more than 450 unclaimed bodies to rest, some of which were found on the city’s roads as well.
“On my first day with the GRP, a girl had died in a railway accident and nobody turned up to claim her body. After several days had passed, I decided to conduct her last rites according to the customs of her religion.
That experience touched my heart and I decided to ensure that the final rites are conducted properly for every person who dies in a railway accident,” said the constable. “Every day, I check the list of the people who die in railway accidents and later take custody of unclaimed bodies to conduct their last rites.
I believe that a railway accident is one of the worst ways for a person to die and I want to make sure that they don’t have to make their final journey alone,” she added.
‘Religion is key’
Devekar said she finds out the religion of the person with the help of the belongings found on the body. Once Devekar is sure of the deceased’s religion, she treats the body accordingly. She ensures that the body is taken to a crematorium if the person was a Hindu, to a burial ground for a Muslim, and so on.
“It is important not only for the last rites to be conducted, but for them to be conducted according to the religion of the deceased. During duty hours, I ensure that people do not cross the railway tracks and try to make them aware of the consequences, and conduct the funerals for the dead while I’m off duty.
People just don’t realise that they are playing with their lives by trespassing on the railway tracks,” said the constable. Devekar said that while most of the cost for the funeral is borne by the government, she bears the expenses of the things like ghee etc required for cremation and also pays small amounts to the workers involved. She said that she conducts the funerals before or after duty hours, depending on her shift.
Devekar’s superior, Deputy Commissioner of Police Rupali Ambure said, “We highly appreciate and admire her work and encourage her. She will be felicitated and given a reward on Women’s Day.”
Number of unclaimed bodies that Devekar has laid to rest
Average no of deaths that take place on city’s railway tracks every day