Rajasthan officer performs infant’s last rites as villagers shy away over Covid-19
A sub-divisional officer (SDO) in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district performed the last rites of a four-month-old girl on Thursday because villagers refused to carry out her funeral suspecting that she may have died of Covid-19 after her father had tested positive for the disease.
The baby died on Wednesday evening due to dehydration following acute diarrhoea.
Mahipal Singh, SDO of Kareda said the girl’s family had returned from Mumbai on May 13 to their village Chhavandi. The family was first put in a quarantine centre and their samples were taken for Covid-19 test. Suresh Kumawat, the baby’s father tested positive on May 23 and was admitted to MG Hospital in Bhilwara. The others were later sent to home quarantine after a brief institutional quarantine.
“The girl had diarrhoea but the family did not inform the officer in charge of home quarantine. On Wednesday, when her condition deteriorated, our team took her to hospital where she was declared dead on arrival,” said Singh.
He said because the family returned from Mumbai, a Covid-19 hotspot, and one member had tested positive, villagers suspected the baby also had the infection.
“Till Thursday afternoon, the body lay in the house and no one was willing to touch it for fear of getting infected,” the SDO said.
He said he went to the deceased girl’s house and tried to convince the family that she was negative. But the family and villagers weren’t convinced. Then the officer lifted the body himself and brought it out.
“When people saw me lifting the body, some others came forward. We took the body to a cremation ground where we buried it,” Singh said.
Apart from the SDO, police and administration officials were present during the funeral. Two members of the family and some villagers also joined in, said the SDO.
Neha Kumawat, a neighbour of the family and who was part of the 12-member group that returned from Mumbai on May 13, said the villagers did not help when the baby was ill and were not convinced that she was not infected.
“The family showed them the test reports but they thought the girl had Covid-19,” said the 20-year-old who also tested positive along with the girl’s father and is in a Bhilwara hospital.
She said three families started from Mumbai in a hired vehicle early May 13 morning and reached Kareda at night. “We were initially quarantined in a house in the village. Samples of one person from each of three families were taken for testing. We were then shifted to an institutional quarantine. Our samples were taken again and three of us tested positive on May 24,” she said.
The other nine among the dozen people were later sent to home quarantine.