Mumbai: Body cremated as unclaimed, family learns of it ten days later

Mumbai: The family of a 41-year-old man who died of COVID-19 learnt of his death at least ten days after he was cremated by the Wadala police as an unclaimed body. The family has now lodged a complaint with the police seeking action against two civic staffers – a doctor and a nurse -- who took the man from his residence to a hospital after he tested positive for COVID-19.

The man’s family has alleged that these two civic staffers, with whom they were in regular touch for updates, misled them about his condition. He was the sole earning member in the family, they said. According to the family, on May 11, after he had tested positive for COVID-19, the two men arrived at the patient’s residence in Barkat Ali Nagar, Wadala, and whisked him away for treatment at a hospital. he civic staffers told the man’s family that they were taking him to HBT Trauma Care Hospital in Jogeshwari East.

The patient’s wife, 65-year-old mother, a ten-yearold specially-abled daughter and seven-year-old son were taken to a quarantine centre. According to the man’s family members, they were in constant touch with the two civic staffers who had quarantined them, and throughout their quarantine period, they kept saying that the patient was on oxygen but stable. They were allegedly also told that the patient was responding to treatment.

On returning home on completion of their institutional quarantine period, the man’s family members went to check on him at Jogeshwari Trauma Care Hospital. They were shocked when the hospital staff informed them they did not have any record of a patient being admitted there under the name. They were told to approach the civic ward office for help. When the family members visited the F-North ward office in Matunga, there too they could not get any details about the patient.

Civic officials at the ward office told them to register a missing person’s complaint with the police. It was only when the patient’s family members approached the Wadala police that they learnt to their dismay that he had died on May 17, and that the deceased been cremated by the police as an unclaimed body. "The hospital had informed the police station about the COVID-19 patient’s death, and our staff tried to reach the address provided by the civic officials. However, since the address was not complete, we could not locate the family. The mobile number provided to us was also not reachable," said Shahaji Shinde, senior police inspector of Wadala police station. Since the body of a COVID-19 patient could not be kept for long, a police constable was sent to inform the hospital that they had not been able to locate the deceased’s address. His body was, therefore, cremated as an unclaimed body in the presence of the police, said a police officer.

The deceased’s family has given a written complaint to the Wadala police station demanding registration of an offence against the civic officials. "We have lost our man and there is no record of his belongings as well. He was wearing a gold ring and a chain and had an iPhone; but there is no record of this as well," alleged a family member.

Assistant Municipal Commissioner Gajanan Bellale told FPJ, “After the patient’s family approached us, we checked with the hospital about the patient's status and then informed the family that he had died on May 17". Asked about the family’s allegations that a civic doctor and nurse had misled them about the patient’s condition, Bellale said, “I will first have to inquire about this, and only then will I be in a position to comment.”

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