KASARAGOD: In a crude display of official apathy, the body of a migrant worker was left to decompose after the morgue freezer conked off in the District Hospital in Kanhangad.
The hospital officials, however, tried to cover it up by saying they acted on time and sent the body to Pariyaram Medical College.
The body of Samaresh Karmakar (41) -- a native of Santipur in West Bengal -- was found in an early stage of decomposing when Vellarikkundu police reached the hospital to conduct the inquest on Monday.
But District Hospital superintendent Prakash K V told The New Indian Express on Tuesday that the police arrived because the hospital told them about the malfunctioning of the freezer.
"We called in the police because they are the custodian of the body," he said. Vellarikkundu inspector Premsadan said that was not the case.
Karmakar, a worker of Uralungal Labor Contract Co-operative Society (ULCCS), was found dead in his room at Mallom near Vellarikkunndu Friday morning.
He had complained of chest pain before sleeping the day before and did not wake up, said the police.
As per COVID protocol, his swabs had to be tested before a postmortem and so the police kept the body in the morgue of the district hospital.
Monday morning, the Corona Control Cell informed that the sample of Karmakar had turned negative. So, the officer sent sub-inspector Sreehari to the District Hospital to conduct the inquest.
"We expected the body to be intact. But what we found was a decomposing body," said Premsadan.
The officer said it affected the inquest. "From now on, we will have to wear the PPE kit and conduct the inquest before the COVID-19 result comes," he said.
Karmakar was part of a team building the hill highway connecting Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.
Youth Congress district secretary Martin George, a native of Mallom, said he accompanied the police to help them in the inquest. "But we could not get near the morgue because of the foul smell," he said.
George said the hospital did not even show the respect we reserve for criminals hanged to death.
"The hospital had the address and phone numbers of the deceased but still did not bother to contact them," he said.
George had accompanied the sub-inspector at the time of inquest.
Youth Congress protest
Meanwhile, the Youth Congress on Wednesday took out a march to the District Hospital against the alleged apathy of the health officials.
The police arrested the 10 Youth Congress protestors and let them off on bail.
George said the District Hospital would conveniently send bodies to Pariyaram Medical College Hospital rather than arranging private freezers at its morgue.
On Monday, there were two bodies in the morgue from the Vellarikkundu police limit.
George had spent money from his pocket to arrange an ambulance to shift the body of a woman, who died by suicide suicide, to the government hospital in Trikaripur.
Karmakar's body was taken to Pariyaram Medical College late in the evening.
"But the hospital refused to keep the body in the freezer because the body had started decomposing," said Vellarikkundu inspector Premsadan.
The body remained in an open room till 10 am on Tuesday when the postmortem was scheduled.
Heartbreaking for family
After the postmortem, the body was handed over to his brother-in-law Sumayya, who came in an ambulance from West Bengal to take the last remains back home.
But the condition of the body was so bad that it had to be cremated in Payambalam public crematorium in Kannur district, said an officer.
Samaresh Karmakar's wife Shikha had sent her brother Sumayya to Kasaragod to bring home the body.
He with the help of two other ambulance drivers drove 2,350 km to reach Kanhangad from Santipur in West Bengal.
He reached the District Hospital in Kanhangad Monday morning. "What he saw was the decomposing body of Samaresh with blood oozing through the nose and ears," said George.
After the postmortem at Pariyaram Medical College, Sumayya was inconsolable when told he could not take the last remains Karmakar back home.