SRIKAKULAM (AP): The decision of sanitary staff using a JCB to shift a COVID-19 infected dead body for its final rites has become controversial in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh. The incident also highlighted once again how the fear of the dreaded virus is overriding all human relations and emotions.
A 70-year-old man died of age-related illnesses in Udayapuram of Kasibugga municipality in Srikakulam district on Friday morning. As his locality is part of a Coronavirus containment zone, samples were collected from the dead body prior to last rites, under instructions from Deputy DM&HO Dr Leela. These tests were conducted on contingency basis using ‘VLM’ testing kits.
The relatives of the deceased man received a phone call later when they were on their way to perform the last rites. To the shock of everyone, the deceased man tested positive for COVID-19 in the ‘Truenat’ medical examination. Jolted by this news, all the relatives of the dead man abandoned his body on the road and ran away for fear of getting infected with the virus.
This prompted the local sanitary inspector to take immediate measures to remove the body from the place to ensure public safety. Soon, he made some of his staff members wear the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear and shift the body to the graveyard for funeral. But the mode of shifting the body that he went for became controversial causing widespread outrage. Unable to find any other better plan, he pressed a JCB into service to carry the dead body in its digging bucket to the graveyard.
The shocking visuals of the JCB carrying the body in its bucket and through the streets of the town went viral on social media. On hearing about the incident, District Collector J Nivas immediately reached Kasibugga town and expressed his anger over the manner in which the issue was handled. He was particularly livid with the insensitivity displayed in handling the body with the use of a JCB.
He immediately suspended Palasa Municipal Commissioner T Nagendra Kumar and Sanitary Inspector N Rajeev, holding them responsible for the lapse.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy also reacted by expressing his shock over the insensitivity displayed in the incident. He ordered the district authorities to initiate stringent action against those responsible for the incident.