Hyderabad Municipal staff of the temple town of Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district drew ire on social media after a video of them using an earth mover to dump a victim’s body into the grave went viral on Monday.
The video showed sanitation staff of the Tirupati Municipal Corporation lifting the body of the Covid-19 victim using the earth mover and dumping it into an already dug pit in the graveyard. The body was that of a 50-year old man, a resident of a village on the outskirts of Tirupati, who was admitted to state-run Sri Venkateshwara Ram Narayan Ruia Hospitals last week. He died of Covid-19 on Monday.
The municipal staff, wearing PPE and masks, brought the body in the ambulance belonging to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) to Harischandra cremation ground. They pulled the body out of the ambulance and placed it on the ground. Then they used the earth mover to dump it in the grave.
As the video was telecast by the local television channels, Tirupati municipal commissioner P S Girisha called a press conference to explain the action. “Generally, we cremate the bodies of Covid-19 victims in the electric crematorium. So far, we have cremated 17 bodies without any complaints,” he said.
The body of this particular victim was also taken to the electric crematorium, said Girisha. “However, it was very heavy, weighing around 175-180 kgs, and tall; it did not fit on the pyre. As it was being lifted, the wrapping around the body got torn. As part of standard operating procedure, it was again taken to the hospital to be wrapped again,” he said.
The municipal authorities then decided to give it a burial instead of cremation. As per the Covid-19 protocol, they had to dig a 14 ft-deep pit using the earth moving machine. “The municipal staff were exhausted as they had already carried the body three or four times. So, they had to use the earth mover to shift the body from the ambulance to the grave, hardly two metres away and bury the body. This was done only after taking the consent of the relatives of the deceased,” Girisha said.
He, however, admitted that the municipal staff should not have used the machine to dump the body in such a disrespectful manner. “They should have engaged another five or six more workers to carry the body physically,” the municipal commissioner said.