CHENNAI: Perumalpattu panchayat president P Srinivasan is a worried man, as this second wave has resulted in more deaths across villages that come under his panchayat. “During the first wave, there were hardly any deaths,” he says. What worries him more is the rising number of dead bodies of Covid patients arriving at the village.
“Usually, it takes six hours to completing all formalities in a government hospital before hading over the body to relatives. It then takes them a longer wait at the crematorium before the bodies are buried,” says Perumalpattu health inspector, B Praveen. But the hitch is that these bodies are being taken to the Kosasthalaiyar river banks in Koilkuppam hamlet. Some are buried and some are burnt. The worrying trend is that the site is close to a source that pumps drinking water to adjoining villages.
Nandakumar S of Koilkuppam told Express that bodies of Covid victims are buried almost at all times of the day at the river banks. “This is a drinking water consumption location. These bodies are buried here without following WHO guidelines. I have written to CM Stalin for his intervention,” he says.
The concern has been echoed by other residents as well. Paranthaman, who owns a farmland near the site, says the villagers are afraid of going near the place. “They are burying or burning the bodies here without understanding the threat it poses to the water body,” he says, adding that ambulances pile up regularly at the site. Dresses, gloves, and other materials like bedsheets are littered all over and freshly dug soil could easily be identified near the water body.
“Government hospitals are sending back the bodies rather than making arrangements at designated sites,” says Srinivasan, adding that he has not signed any letter permitting anyone to perform last rites at the river bank. The health inspector and village administrative officer gave them permission, he adds. However, the health inspector says, “These were Covid positive patients. Following the request made by the panchayat president, we handed over bodies to relatives. This is as per the SOP.”
Village Administrative Officer T Sugumar says that since there is no alternate site to dispose of bodies of Covid patients, last rites are performed there. “I will ensure it does not happen again and flag off the issue to the Tahsildar,” he says.