CHENNAI: When the police found a human body bundled in a bedsheet being carried along with groceries and two elderly people in a van on Tuesday, they were shocked. After learning that the body was being carted away from the Tambaram branch of St Joseph Hospices, which houses destitute elderly, to the remote Palaswaram village branch in Kancheepuram district, as many as 60 officials went for a site inspection on Wednesday.
They were surprised to find that the hospice did not just take care of the destitute elderly, but also had a multi-tier vault for storing corpses.
The vaults appeared like bank lockers. After a certain number of years, the vaults were reused.
While it is unclear if the hospice management obtained permission to build the vault, what raised concern among officials was the lack of monitoring on whose bodies were deposited there and how the remains were processed. The home’s licence expired a few months ago and its application for renewal has not yet been approved.
“We raised concern about the absence of supervision on how the home handles bodies. We don’t even know if they obtain death certificates before depositing the corpses in the vault,” said a health department official. While rules mandate that the remains in the vault be cleared only once in 13 years, local residents claimed the management had been clearing them every few months. A representative of the home said they were open to a probe.