A widely circulated video on Tuesday, showing health workers tossing bodies of suspected coronavirus patients into a pit in Karnataka’s Ballari district, has sparked public outrage, News18 reported. Health Minister B Sriramulu said the staff involved in the funeral procedures have been suspended.
In the video, workers wearing personal protection equipment are seen taking eight bodies wrapped in black sheets from a vehicle parked nearby, and dropping them into a large pit dug up with the help of an earthmover.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa condemned the incident and said the behaviour of the staff was “inhuman and painful”. “I request the staff, let’s realise that there is no greater religion than humanity,” a statement from his office said.
Ballari Deputy Commissioner Collector SS Nakul told NDTV the incident is being investigated on “humanitarian grounds” but pointed out that the bodies were wrapped in plastic in lieu with the government guidelines. “If you look at the video, the body is packaged properly,” he said. “We need to look at it [on] humanitarian grounds. That is why this inquiry. We need to create awareness of this [respectful handling of bodies], it is true, and action will be taken.”
Sriramulu appealed to all staff of the health department to follow the rules while conducting funerals of Covid-19 victims. The district administration also issued an “unconditional apology” to the families of those who died and others hurt by the incident.
Meanwhile, opposition party Janata Dal (Secular) mocked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the state for its “well-planned Covid-19 management”.
“Beware! By chance, if you or your family members die because of Covid-19, this is how the BJP government in Karnataka throws away your body with many others into a single pit,” it said in a tweet. “This is the ‘well-planned Covid management’ that the government talks about every day in the media.”
The incident came just days after the body of a coronavirus patient, a 72-year-old man in Andhra Pradesh, was shifted to the crematorium from his house in an earthmover. Two officials were suspended after the incident came to light.
On June 7, another video had surfaced from Puducherry which showed government officials dumping a body of a coronavirus patient from Chennai into a pit. One of the men in the video was also heard saying that they have “thrown the body”.