AHMEDABAD: Venilal Malwala has cremated over 10,000 unclaimed bodies in two decades in Gujarat’s Surat. A ‘jari’ businessman, Malwala has neglected his business and spent his own money to give dignity to the dead.
“I have one regret. I could not save a man’s life in 1998. He was injured in an accident and policemen delayed me in rushing him to the hospital. The man succumbed while police kept harassing me. That day, I decided to set up a trust to take care of the funeral of those who remain unidentified,” he says.
Malwala recently organised an exhibition of photographs of more than 1,700 corpses so that people might just find their missing ones.
“We hold this exhibition in January every year where we display pictures of the people whom we have cremated. This helps many people to identify their loved ones whom we might have cremated as an unclaimed body,” says Malwala.
His Agni Dah Seva Kendra spends about Rs 1,000 on a cremation.
“Despite conducting hundreds of funerals over the years, the ones I performed in the last two years during Covid-19 have shaken me. Their relatives were in hospital, but never came back to claim the bodies,” he says.
Shiv Nath Prasad Giri’s son Vinod came from Uttar Pradesh to work in south Gujarat’s Umargam factory, but suddenly he disappeared.
“For a long time, there was no trace of Vinod. Then we came to know about the photo exhibition organised by Veni Bhai. We found our son in one of the photos. Venibhai helped us get a copy of the FIR from the Gujarat Police and also the death certificate,” he says.
Malwala receives at least 500 unclaimed body in a year from police and hospitals.
“Every deceased person is given a bath and cremated after rituals,” he says.
“God has chosen me for this noble cause. I will continue to do this until I am alive."