TIRUPATI:The ‘ill-equipped and understaffed’ mortuary of the Sri Venkateswara Medical College, located beside the Pediatrics Department, proved almost unequal to the task of conducting the post-mortem of the bodies of 20 red sanders smugglers and wood-cutters, who were killed in an alleged encounter during a combing operation by the Red Sanders Anti -Smuggling Task Force in the Seshachalam Forest Range on Monday, going by what two Class IV staff and another employee, who pleaded anonymity, told Express here on Thursday.
One of them, Mantrala Venkateswarulu (63), who makes a living by assisting the doctors and others at the mortuary, said that it had only two post-mortem tables and employed two regular doctors and two Class IV staff, including himself - the latter on a temporary basis. He added that the doctors had to requisition additional staff from some Primary Healthcare Centres in Chittoor District to assist them in conducting the post-mortem on Wednesday, which extended till the early hours of Thursday.
Venkateswarulu said that he was generally given tips by relatives of the dead for packing autopsied bodies and delivering them apart from some money by the policemen. “After about 20 years, I am again witnessing such a large number of corpses being brought to the mortuary at a time. Just like in the past, we had a tough time from the time the bodies were brought in early on Wednesday morning till the early hours of Thursday when the relatives of the dead took away the bodies. And we were not even paid enough remuneration for the arduous task”, he rued.
Another class-four staff, who was intoxicated (during his working hours) to endure the stench emanated by the bodies, complained that the police had promised them Rs 5,000 for working throughout the day, but had given only Rs 2,500. “The policemen take us for granted as we are from a lower strata of the society. Moreover, we are not given permanent jobs. I have four children living in Tamil Nadu. Though they do not know my whereabouts, especially about my profession, I have to save money for their future,” he said with tears. Meanwhile, according to another employee, who pleaded anonymity, Chittoor District Collector Siddharth Jain has taken note of the pathetic conditions at the mortuary and has promised to improve the facilities as soon as possible.
It may be mentioned here that the last time when a large number of bodies were brought to the SVMC’s mortuary was almost two decades ago when it had to conduct the post-mortem of 23 bodies of the victims of a bus mishap that had occurred in Tirupati. Then too the doctors and other staff of the mortuary, located beside the Infectious Diseases wing of the Ruia Government Hospital, had a tough time doing their job but had relentlessly worked to complete it.