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mid-day's 42nd anniversary: Cop who gives dignity to the dead

Updated on: 23 July,2021 09:12 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinod Kumar Menon |

A police hearse driver disposIng of unclaimed bodies since 2001, finds new found respect and recognition from the force in the pandemic

mid-day's 42nd anniversary: Cop who gives dignity to the dead

Dnyaandeo Ware’s wife santises her husband from head to foot before he enters the house

Dnyaandeo Ware, 52,

Police Havildar, who has been performing the last rites of unclaimed bodies for two decades

For over two decades, Police Havildar Dnyaandeo Ware, 52, a police hearse driver, attached to the Motor Transport Department of the Mumbai police, Nagpada, has been trudging in and out morgues in various civic and government hospitals collecting unclaimed and unidentified bodies. He then performs the last rites of the deceased if the faith is known and then waits till the cremation is over.

Incidentally, Ware’s unenviable job has no takers. Hence, he remains the only person to perform this duty for over two decades. Worse, since 2009, he had not even been promoted. But, a few months ago after a report in this paper on Ware’s tough job caught his superiors’ eyes, he was promoted and given awards and recognition. 

During the pandemic, Ware has laid to rest over 500 non-Covid and 50 plus Covid positive unidentified and unclaimed bodies. In June, he laid to rest 35 unclaimed bodies of which five were Covid positive. 

“Every time I come in contact with an unclaimed Covid positive body, I take a step back and ensure that I have taken all the required precautions – hand sanitiser, double mask and multilayered gloves, PPE kits for the two people, Manoj Valmiki, 28, and his colleague Sunil Sharma, 22,  who assist me, as I do not want my family to get infected,” said Ware.

“I had never seen such horrifying scenes ever before in my 20 plus years of lifting unclaimed bodies. Mortuaries are piling high with bodies and crematorium/burial grounds have bodies on the wait list. We have to wait between two to 10 hours with unclaimed bodies, as the first preference is to cremate/bury the Covid dead. And, if I do not do this job, no one else will,” says Ware.

“I collect unclaimed bodies from St George, GT, JJ, KEM, Nair, Sewree TB and Sion hospital mortuaries and dispose of them at either the electric crematorium, Bada Qabrastan, Marine Lines or the Mahalakshmi graveyard.” On an average before the pandemic, they would dispose of three bodies a day. But with the death toll rapidly rising, they have had to spend hours waiting for the disposal of a single body. His routine is harsher now as with the pandemic he has to drop his clothes in hot water, wash them and only then enter his house. But, he is happy now that his efforts have been recognised. 

Ganga Ware, 43, his wife said, “My husband has been doing this for 20 year. Initially, I was scared, as there is always the risk of contracting an infection. Today, when I look back, I realise only he could have done this work. And, because of his good deeds, he is receiving applause and praise.”

When asked, if not with the police, what would Ware have done for a living, she smiled and said, “he was destined to be in the police department and do what he is doing best — giving dignity to the dead.”

Ware has six years of service left, and he wants to continue doing what he does best. With fear of a third wave set to strike soon, Ware requests Mumbaikars to follow all Covid pro- tocol and not to take the danger of the virus lightly.

Also Read: Mumbai: Param Bir Singh, other top cops booked for extortion, cheating

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