Unclaimed bodies have been piling up at the four state-run post-mortem centres in the city since January; even though the rulebook states that the respective police stations have to dispose of the bodies within 15 days, cops have been giving various excuses for the delay
Even in death, there is no space in Mumbai. That is the grim reality in the so-called city of dreams, where four state-run hospital mortuaries are struggling to make space for the dead, as the bodies of those who have died are yet to be disposed of. Moreover, the accumulation of corpses is posing a risk to the staff members at these centres, as well as its equipment.
As many as 129 unclaimed dead bodies lie untouched at post-mortem centres in JJ, Cooper, Rajawadi and Bhagwati hospitals since January this year. Already short on staff since two years, these centres, which conduct over 54 post-mortems between them every day, are now struggling to make space for the daily inflow of dead bodies and maintain a workable environment. Sources blame the pile-up on the lax attitude of cops in disposing of the bodies.
According to documents accessed by mid-day, the Bhagwati centre alone houses 54 unclaimed bodies, almost half of the total from all the state-run centres. Though officials there refuse to share any information, sources confirmed the hospital houses almost twice as many bodies as its original capacity of 48.
JJ, Cooper and Rajawadi have been waiting to dispose of 20, 28 and 27 bodies each. Officials from Cooper confirmed that if not removed, these bodies can potentially affect the technology and facilities of the centre. With a capacity to store 42 bodies, the Cooper facility had to be closed on December 28, 2013, as doctors noticed non-maintenance of adequate temperatures, a malfunction that was allegedly attributed to the excess number of bodies. At the same time, the increasing amount of bacteria is potentially affecting the health of the staff at these centres.
The stench emanating from these centres is also causing problems for residents living around them. Residents of Madona Colony Road have to deal with the smell of rotting bodies from the Bhagwati centre every day. Around eight housing societies of the vicinity have objected to the establishment of the centre since its inception.
Dhananjay Junnerkar, a local social activist, said, “Imagine waking up to the stench of dead bodies. Staying in the vicinity of the centre has become a horrifying experience. We are already in talks with authorities to resolve the matter.” The Madona Colony welfare group had, in the past, filed a PIL against the establishment of the centre, which was rejected by the high court.
Passing the buck
According to the data, almost 99 per cent of unclaimed bodies have been at the centres for a period of anywhere between 30 days to 10 months. S M Patil, state police surgeon, stated there is no fault in the follow-ups conducted by his team at the centres.
“We keep informing the respective police stations through mails, notices and phone calls. It is the responsibility of concerned police stations to look after the timely disposal. According to a GR dated July 25, 1999, bodies are supposed to be disposed of within 3-5 days. If the investigating cops write a letter to the post-mortem centre, this period can be stretched to a maximum of 15 days. Cops give various excuses for the delay. We have issued notices in the police bulletin as well, stating that if the bodies are not cleared at the earliest, no new unclaimed bodies would be allowed in the post-mortem centres,” said Patil.
The Samta Nagar police station in Kandivli allows parking space for the only van that is used for disposal of bodies brought in by 17 police stations under the jurisdiction of the Bhagwati mortuary. After the driver of this van, who catered to police stations from Dahisar to Goregaon, died, a new driver to ferry the dead to Bhagwati is yet to be assigned.
“The van is parked at our police station because it’s centrally located. It is the responsibility of the concerned police station to send a driver and use the van to dispose of the bodies in a stipulated time period,” said a police sub-inspector from Samta Nagar on condition of anonymity.
Others had different excuses to offer. Prakash Jadhav, senior police inspector at Dahisar Police station, claims he was not informed about the pending work. “I had no idea that we are yet to dispose of over eight bodies. The necessary documents were with inspectors on leave, so we couldn’t maintain the logs. But, we have sped up the procedures and will complete the process in a few days,” he said.
Police stations with most bodies
Bhagwati post-mortem centre: 54
Borivali GRP: 12
Dahisar police station: 8
Kandivli police station: 8
MHB Colony police station: 2
Borivli police station: 5
Cooper post-mortem centre: 28
Juhu police station: 5
Amboli police station: 4
Andheri GRP: 4
Santacruz police station: 3
Bandra railway police station: 3
JJ post-mortem centre: 20
Dongri police station: 5
VP marg police station: 5
Nagpada police station: 3
Byculla police station: 3
Rajawadi post-mortem centre: 27
Kurla police station: 4
Pant Nagar police station: 3
Powai police station: 3
Chembur police station: 2
Tilak Nagar police station: 2
Dhananjay Kamlakar, joint commissioner of police (law and order), said that the issue would be resolved soon. “We have to follow certain procedures to dispose of bodies. Our police stations are facing a number of issues while doing so, since we have to wait for the claimants. However, I wasn’t aware of the number of bodies to be disposed of; I’ll look into the matter and I am sure the number will come down soon,” he told.