Hospital worker ensures ‘respectable last rites’ to unclaimed bodies
The last 10 years in the life of a senior nursing incharge at JK Lone Hospital has been involved in visiting the crematorium of unclaimed bodies — daily. In there, from dripping the lips of the dead with drops of Gangajal, to immersing the ashes in the river, Neeraj Tamboliya is involved in carrying out the last rites of the unidentified people.
“I work at a government hospital since the last 26 years and have seen a lot of people who are admitted and die of severe diseases after which nobody comes to claim their bodies. Also, there are several others who die in unknown circumstances on the roadside due to cold in winters, diseases etc. There are often no whereabouts as to who they are and where they came from. Mortuaries in the hospitals are full of such people. Thinking a lot about such people, I concluded that the least I could do was ensure respectable last rites for them, something that their families would have given them,” said the 53-year-old.
“Of course, the people who are the caretakers of the crematoriums burn the bodies or bury them since this is their job, but bidding a goodbye to the dead with all the prayers and rituals involved along with immersing their ashes in the Ganga every month is what I do. Only because nobody claimed the body does not mean that the dead does not deserve this,” he added.
As per the due process, when a person dies at any public place, the local police station is contacted. Police come in and take the body for a medical procedure. As per the caretakers, an unclaimed body is handed over by police to the crematoriums after the due medical process is followed.
When asked about the rituals belonging to different religion for the last rites and if he follows only Hindu rituals to cremate the bodies, Tamboliya said: “Since a body is unclaimed, we mostly cannot specify the religion. Sometimes when we are sure of the religion, a body is burnt or buried as per the religion. However, this happens in very less cases. Mostly, no whereabouts are known, and as I have learnt all the Hindu prayers involved in carrying out the last rites, I follow the Hindu way of bidding goodbye to the dead people whose whereabouts are not known. Once a month, I make a trip to Haridwar after collecting the ashes of all the unclaimed dead people who have been cremated in the city and immerse it in Ganga after performing a puja.”
When asked if other people also join him, Tamboliya said there are people who keep coming in to join and then they leave with a common excuse of “risk of being possessed by the souls of the dead”.
The cremation staffers at several crematoriums lag basic facilities such as water.
Moreover, some believe that a helpline number should specifically start for the unclaimed dead people in the city so that as soon as a corpse is spotted, the medical formalities are carried out immediately and the cremation is carried out.
“In most of the cases, a body brought at the crematorium is often decayed or has a lot of infection, which might be a risk to people carrying out the cremation. Also, its a time-consuming process. A helpline specifically for the unclaimed bodies should be started so that the process does not take much time,” said Tamboliya. “People who carry out the cremation work should be provided with basic facilities such as water,” he added.