In a bizarre incident, an elderly coronavirus patient was brought back home in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district by his family members, a week after they received "his body" from a COVID hospital and cremated it.
Shibdas Bandyopadhyay, a resident of Birati, returned home a day before the family members were to perform his shradh.
The 75-year-old man was admitted to the Balaram hospital in Barasat on November 11 after he tested positive for COVID-19 and two days later his family members were informed of his demise, a health department official said on Saturday.
The hospital even issued a death certificate, it was reported, following which the body was 'sealed' and delivered to the family.
The body was kept in a plastic bag, following COVID protocols, and shown to the family members from a distance, and they said they could not see the face clearly.
"We cremated the body and were prepared to perform the shradh. However, we got a call yesterday. Someone told us that my father has recovered and we should arrange for an ambulance to take him home from the hospital," Bandyopadhyay's son said.
Even the list of invites to the shradh ceremony had been fixed by that time. The incredulous family visited the hospital and found Shibdas alive and well.
However, the most obvious question then loomed in everyone's minds — if Shibdas is alive, then whose body was it that was cremated?
"We are shocked and surprised. However, we brought him home. We do not know whom we have cremated," he said.
When enquired on whose body was cremated thinking it to be that of Bandyopadhyay, the health department official said that another elderly COVID patient, Mohinimohan Mukhopadhyay of Khardah had also died on November 13 and "it was he whose last rites were performed".
The incident came to light on Friday after Mukhopadhyay's family members were informed that he has been cured of COVID-19 and they reached the hospital to take him home, the official said.
The state health department constituted a four-member committee to probe the matter, the official said.
When contacted, an official of the North 24 Parganas district health department said, "If laxity is found on the part of the hospital, we will take strict action. But it appears that the confusion was created by documents of both the parents."
Meanwhile, the BJP's West Bengal president Dilip Ghosh claimed that such incidents can only happen in West Bengal.
He accused the state government of conducting less number of tests in a day to keep the coronavirus tally low.
"Our neighbouring states like Bihar, Odisha and UP are testing over one lakh of tests whereas they (the West Bengal government) are keeping it to 45,000 because they want to suppress the fact.
"If they test over one lakh of samples, over 20,000 new cases will be diagnosed. They have no rights to play games with the lives of the people," Ghosh told reporters.
(With inputs from PTI)