CHENNAI: Lifting 1,000 dead bodies from railway tracks, several of them mutilated, and burying over 4,000, may appear to be a herculean task to a common man, but not for humble policeman N Annamalai, who has been rendering this yeoman service for the last two decades.
Most of these bodies remain unidentified as there are no documents to establish their identities. “Whether the deceased was a good person or not, the body should be buried in a dignified manner,” said the Special Sub Inspector attached to the Government Railway Police (GRP) at the Central Railway Station.
Several people are crushed to death under the wheels of trains after trespassing onto railway tracks. The GRP tries to trace the relatives of the deceased, but unfortunately, the identities of the deceased cannot be traced due to the non-availability of any ID cards.
The Unidentified Dead Bodies Liaison Officer, posted at the respective GRP station makes desperate attempts to identify the bodies through various measures including matching the photos with those of missing persons across police stations in Tamil Nadu. When such attempts turn futile, the bodies are marked as unidentified.
At this point, Annamalai turns the virtual relative of the deceased. The cop, with assistance from four NGOs, gives the body a dignified burial at the Hindu burial ground at Moolakothalam in North Chennai.
In 1996, he joined the GRP and began handling bodies. Last year, the High Court commended him for his services. A father of three children, Annamalai has worked in several stations, including Tambaram and Perumbur. “When we trace the family members of the deceased in far off places after slogging for months, they request us to bury the body in Chennai because they are so poor they can’t even afford a train ticket to pay the last respects,” he recalls.