None to help, son carries Covid mum’s body on shoulders for last rites

In a heartbreaking incident in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, a son was forced to carry his mother’s body on his shoulders for the last rites.

The picture of son Bir Singh taking the body of his Covid-19 positive mother alone on his shoulders for cremation in Kangra district has become viral on social media shaking the conscience of one and all. The young man was forced to carry her body alone for about one kilometer as villagers and relatives refused to come ahead and lend a shoulder as she had died of Covid-19. While the son carried the body to the cremation ground, his wife followed him with a toddler in one hand and cremation material in the other.

The sobbing son said his mother developed fever and breathing trouble on May 12 and due to the non-availability of any bed in hospital, she was administered the prescribed medication at home but she died on May 13. He said, “I informed the village pradhan and my relatives. Two PPE kits were arranged, but no one came forward to help me out in performing the last rites. I then lifted the body of my mother on my shoulders and walked down to the cremation ground, about 1 km away. There also, I alone had to do everything to cremate my mother”.

Questions are being raised as to how civilized society could turn a blind eye at such a time. The role of the Village Panchayat and district administration is also being questioned. Sadly, the dead woman was a former Up Pradhan of village Panchayat from Bhangwar Panchayat near Ranital region, 35 kms from Kangra. She had tested positive and was in home isolation.

Bhangwar panchayat pradhan Suram Singh said he was suffering from fever and couldn’t go to Bir Singh’s house. The panchayat pradhan said he contacted tractor-trailer drivers to take the body for cremation, but they refused. Deputy commissioner Rakesh Kumar Prajapati said Bir Singh had taken the body for cremation before administrative help could reach him. “However, here the onus also lies on society. Why did the villagers and relatives, who brought the PPE kits, not help the aggrieved family?” the DC said. “Are we so afraid of the virus? If people don’t help each other in such a crisis, they are already dead,” he said. Prajapati said he has now passed an order that the cremation of people, who die of Covid-19, whether in hospital or at home, will be carried out by the administration so that no such incident happens again. He said an administrative officer, either an SDM or a tehsildar or a naib tehsildar, would remain present at the cremation. In a similar incident in Hamirpur district, a Covid-19 patient died at Bhakredi panchayat and no villager turned up for the last rites.

Shaken by the incident, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has directed all deputy commissioners to ensure the body disposal protocol for Covid patients dying in home isolation was strictly adhered to across the state. He said the deputy commissioners must ensure that the bereaved family of every Covid-19 victim gets full support from the district authorities in performing the last rites of the deceased. It is a matter of concern that while national positivity rate has dipped to below 20 per cent, Himachal Pradesh’s positivity rate is currently 26 per cent as the virus has penetrated the hinterland. Actually, Shimla, Sirmaur, Solan and Mandi districts have registered a mountainous over 30 per cent positivity rate.