Denied cremation over Covid-19 scare, siblings in Odisha bury man’s body
The stigma attached to Covid-19 patients forced the siblings of a man in Odisha who died after showing symptoms of the disease to bury him by the roadside after villagers refused to let them cremate the body.
The incident which took place on Monday came to light after the photos and video of the incident were widely shared.
Somnath Patra, a travelling salesman in Kabisuryanagar block in Ganjam district was suffering from fever and cough for the past 10 days. When his condition deteriorated on Monday, his brother and sister took him to a Covid-19 hospital at Sitalapalli in an ambulance.
However, Somnath died on the way to the hospital. When his brother Kedar and sister Sanjukta returned to the village with the body in the ambulance, villagers did not allow them to enter the village suspecting that Somnath had died of Covid-19 though no test had been conducted.
The siblings then requested the villagers to help them to take the body to the cremation ground but no one came forward over fears that the young man died of Covid-19.
“Though we had some relatives, no one came fearing that my brother died due to Covid-19,” said Sanjukta. “Our neighbours also looked the other way when we asked for help.”
After waiting for a few hours, the ambulance driver asked the brother-sister duo to take out the body from the ambulance and cremate it.
Left with no choice, the siblings wrapped the body in a plastic sheet and dragged it to a marshy land by a road where to bury it.
Seeing the plight of the siblings, some people informed the local administration following which an excavator was sent for digging a pit to bury the body.
Kabisuryanagar tehsildar Prakash Mishra said the way the locals refused to help in the cremation of the body was shameful. “The dead deserve respect and dignity. Stigmatising a person on the suspicion that he died of Covid-19 is very unfortunate,” he said.
There have been several cases of stigma attached to Covid-19 in Odisha over the last few months. In May, a videographer in Ganjam district had to stay in his car for a few days after villagers refused to let him in over fears of Covid infection. In another incident, a migrant worker of Ganjam district was forced to stay in a forest for few days after villagers refused to let him in.