The coffins of three Chhattisgarh policemen killed in a Maoist landmine blast on Sunday night in Dantewada were transported in a municipality garbage collection vehicle for the guard of honour ceremony, the state's police chief admitted on Tuesday.
"No ambulance was available at the time... it was the only municipality vehicle available," Director General of Police (DGP) Vishwa Ranjan said.
He said the mini-truck was washed and cleaned before the coffins were placed on it.
The bodies of Laxman Bhagat, Aslan Ekka and Bhushan Mandwai were brought to district headquarters Dantewada town from the blast site in Kirandul, some 40 km away, on Monday. The bodies were then dispatched to the policemen's respective native villages.
Dantewada's Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg admitted that it was a municipality vehicle, but hesitated to elaborate.
When asked whether it was a garbage vehicle, he said after a long silence: "I don't know what kind of vehicle it was, but it was a municipality vehicle."
Dantewada-based journalist Vinod Singh said several ambulances are available in Kirandul and its nearby town Bacheli. The two towns, which have several hospitals, markets and residential colonies for employees of state-run mining company NMDC, are separated by a 10-km hilly road.
"No one made any effort to bring an ambulance. A constable who was asked to dispatch the bodies for the guard of honour, phoned the Kirandul Nagar Palika to send a vehicle," Singh said.
The three policemen were killed just four km away from Kirandul police station, more than 420 km south of state capital Raipur.
They were part of a seven-member police team which was travelling in a Bolero jeep that ran over a landmine planted by Maoists.
Another policeman succumbed to injuries later.
Chhattisgarh's sprawling 40,000 square km Bastar region, comprising five districts, has been a Maoist hotbed since the late 1980s.