Government hospital mortuaries in Hyderabad, especially the Osmania General Hospital have become the hub for illegal trade in dead bodies to the private medical colleges across India. Authorities of various departments like Public Health, Municipal Corporation and Medical Officials in hospitals are allegedly involved. The negligence of the police officials towards this issue raises questions of their connivance as well.
Because of this, the dead bodies remain untraceable for the claimants. These are well hatched situations created by habitual offenders which include the network comprising of mortuary employees to government officials. The process of establishing identity is an excruciating process due to ill-treatment of hospital auhorities.
The manner in which dead bodies are dealt with is unethical, against the law and violation of human rights. The body of a person found dead under suspicious circumstances is to be taken to mortuary for postmortem under police scrutiny only after filling an FIR under sections 174 and 176 as per Criminal Procedure Code. Every mortuary has a capacity to hold about 50 to 75 bodies for preservation in freezers for 72 hours after postmortem as per rule.
These 72 hours are the time available to identify the body through various means and inform the relatives concerned so that they can claim it.
If the body still remains unclaimed, then the police and hospital officials must hand it over to public health department for funeral rites.
According to Satya Harischandra Foundation (SHF), an NGO working for unclaimed and unidentified bodies, in spite of all these laws, the bodies were kept hidden in a separate room without filing any case and post mortem for the sake of trading.
PILED UP: “In this room, we could see bulks of bodies placed one on the other in an inhumane manner. Most of these bodies were mutilated or did not have the internal organs. These are cash pots for the mafia”, said Vijay, an SHF volunteer.Despite several attempts, police officials refused to respond on this issue. Dr. K.R.Rao, Founder, SHF says, “Bodies that have undergone surgery cannot be sold. Only good condition bodies are required. A female dead body comands up to Rs. 15 lakhs.”“If they come across any unclaimed or unidentified body to be that of a destitute, then the miscreants inject four litres of glycerene and morphylene solution into the body to preserve it for more than a year without decomposition”, he added.
HUGE DEMAND: Privatization of medical education has led to a large number of private medical colleges and that has increased the demand for dead bodies for various purposes. The growing demand for medical purposes fulling the illegal trade.
In 1997, Government of Andhra Pradesh issued a Government Order(G.O), which provides the unclaimed dead bodies in government hospitals to the Deccan College of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, on request and payment of Rs.4000. After the needs of government colleges are fulfilled, the surplus cadavers are handed over to private medical colleges on payment of Rs.15000 per dead body.
Later the G.O. was revised in favor of the private medical colleges. “After this G.O, the mafia generated huge business over dead bodies compounding the woes of the relatives,” said Dr. Rao.
Graveyards and crematoriums are maintained by private groups with a challan price unaffordable for the poor. This has created a situation where many families are leaving their deceased at mortuaries. These bodies are like bonus to the mafia for the lack of claimants.
DIGNIFIED DISPOSAL: According to Indian constitution, Article 21 provides protection of life and personal liberty. This right also extends to the dignified disposal of the dead body. “To meet the requirement of medical colleges, we can go for synthetic dead bodies which can even breathe and pump blood. Virtual dissection using videos with 3D technology can also be implemented. These methods are already in use in China and other countries.” says Dr. Sree Bhushan Raju, Head, Dept of Nephrology, NIMS.
“I don’t understand, for them is this not an issue of violating human rights? Why are they not responding? We need to understand this issue in depth”, said Dr. Rao.
“The government has the responsibility to dispose dead bodies in a dignified manner. I feel the dead bodies too have rights, as they cannot speak out about the violations perpetrated on them. Civil society and government need to take care of their rights,” said S. Jeevan Kumar of Human Rights Forum. This issue isa social evil that has to be addressed at the earliest.