Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Thursday praised a Mumbai Police officer for performing the last rites of four people, who died in the city during the nationwide lockdown, imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Among the four, whose bodies were unclaimed, one had died of Covid-19, while the others were destitutes, PTI reported.

Deshmukh said that Police Naik Sandhya Sheelvant of Shahu Nagar Police Station had conducted six such cremations and her dedication to her duty was admirable. “Sheelvant’s statement ‘awareness of social commitment shuts the doors of fear’ is inspiring not only for the police force but for everyone,” the home minister tweeted.

Shahu Nagar police station is located at Dharavi, which is a containment zone in Mumbai. The area alone accounts for 1,452 cases in the city. As of Thursday evening, Mumbai has a total of 25,317 cases and 882 Covid-19 patients have died.

As part of Sheelvant’s duty, she has to register cases of accidental deaths in the area, collect unclaimed bodies, send them for postmortem, trace the families of the deceased and dispose of bodies that remain unclaimed.

Sheelvant said that owing to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown, there had been a rise in unclaimed bodies, and that families of Covid-19 patients avoided burials out of fear of contracting the virus. “There was no space to store the bodies as mortuaries are stretched beyond their limits, and the bodies need to be disposed of at the earliest,” she said. “It is my duty to dispose of unclaimed bodies and I am not scared of them. I collect blood samples of the deceased and even transport their viscera to forensic labs to ascertain the cause of deaths.”

There have been several instances of attacks on police personnel and doctors attempting to carry out the last rites of Covid-19 patients across the country. Earlier this month, 71 people were arrested in Gujarat’s Anand district for violence after they disrupted the cremation of a man who died of the coronavirus.

On April 28, residents of a village in Ambala city in Haryana clashed with the police and pelted stones at doctors after refusing to allow the cremation of a Covid-19 suspect. On April 19, a mob in Chennai attacked a group, including doctors, during the burial of a neurosurgeon who had tested positive for the coronavirus.

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