The body of a man who had COVID-19 and passed away in his home in Hyderabad, was not collected by the authorities for at least 20 hours. Fifty-five-year-old Venkatesh and his wife Dhanalakshmi were living in a standalone building in Ambedkar Nagar in Sainikpuri. Venkatesh, an epilepsy patient, who was a supervisor at a construction site, passed away on October 22 in his home. His wife, Dhanalakshmi, who found her husband’s body, died around 4 pm by suicide on the same day.
The couple belonged to Nalgonda, and did not have children. They reportedly did not interact much with their neighbours. Local residents alerted the police about their deaths, and the officials arrived at the scene soon after. However, the residents allege that an ambulance came to collect Dhanalakshmi's body only around 10 pm, a full five hours after her death. They also allege that her body was not even covered with a sheet during that time.
According to Sridhar, a local resident, the police cordoned off the lane as people had begun to gather. While Dhanalakshmi’s body was taken by the end of the day, residents had no idea what would happen to Venkatesh's body. With the police leaving after Dhanalakshmi’s body was taken, the residents say that they did not know who else to contact.
They reached out to the local police again in the morning, but the police allegedly said that they were waiting for information from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) since Venkatesh had been coronavirus positive. Someone from the GHMC came to sanitise the area, but they did not shift the body. The police also reportedly alleged that the residents were not cooperating.
“If they asked us for details or told us to sign something, we were ready to do that. When people gathered, we were helping regulate the traffic. Did they need our help to lift and move the body?” asks Sridhar.
“One of the people who died was coronavirus positive and the neighbours were very scared about what to do, whom to contact. We contacted everyone — the GHMC, the corporator, the police, everyone. We were left with no one else to contact about what needed to be done,” adds Sridhar.
At 11.30 am the next day, an ambulance arrived from Gandhi Hospital to collect Venkatesh’s body, with persons wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) as per protocol.
“From 4 pm the previous day until 11.30 am the next day, the body of the person on the second floor was lying there. The body had not been covered. No one went upstairs,” says Sridhar.
Sridhar points out that the incident happened in a major bustling area in Hyderabad city, and that things should have been done quicker.
“It was very inhumane to leave Dhanalakshmi's body for five hours and Venkatesh's body until 11.30 am the next day. It was inhumane on the part of the police as well as the GHMC COVID cell,” Sridhar adds.
Neredmet SI Raghavendra Reddy, however, maintained that there was no delay. He also claimed that the residents did not cooperate, and that they shut their doors and stayed in because they could get COVID-19. “To dispose of a body, two relatives need to be there. We can’t do it otherwise,” he told TNM.