Tirupati municipal officials later clarified that they had taken permission from the victim’s family due to his weight and age.

JCB tractor being used to move deceased COVID19 victim in AndhraScreengrab
Coronavirus Controversy Tuesday, July 07, 2020 - 08:52

A video depicting a JCB tractor being used to transport the body of a COVID-19 patient has drawn outrage in Andhra Pradesh. The incident reportedly took place in Tirupati on Sunday evening. 

Soon after the video sparked criticism on social media, Tirupati municipal officials reported that consent from the family had been taken in order to bury the body using the tractor.

"The weight of the body was around 175 to 180 kilograms. Because the public was gathering at the graveyard, Corporation handlers had to hurry. Don’t make it a big issue. I have already trained the handlers about handling the dead bodies. There are only four to five handlers, we should spare a thought about them too. We shall still ensure that these kinds of incidents will not be reported further,” PS Girish, the Municipal Commissioner for Tirupati, told the media. 

In the first video, a tractor approaches an ambulance with six persons in full protective gear. ‘Tirumala Devasthanam’ is written above the door of the ambulance. The second video was taken after the body was moved to the tractor. A total of nine persons can be seen with PPEs, including the driver. The tractor proceeds to transport the body of the COVID-19 patient into the grave. 

The video led to backlash on social media, with political parties accusing the Andhra Pradesh state government of denying the dignity of death for COVID-19 patients. 

Nara Lokesh, the former IT minister and present General Secretary of the Telugu Desam Party, tweeted, "Yet another shocking instance of how the dead body of a #COVID__19 patient is treated in AP. Authorities in Tirupati are seen using an earthmover to dump the body into a pit. Does the Govt have the guts to show this video to the grieving loved ones? Can't they respect the dead?"

The Tirupati administration soon came out with a clarification over the viral video. Speaking to the media, PS Girish attempted to clarify why the handlers were unable to bury the body with adequate dignity. The commissioner stated that the patient was an elderly and obese person, which posed challenges for the handlers to lift the body in their protective gear.

Later on Monday, the administration circulated a consent form signed by the family of the deceased, granting the handlers permission to use a tractor to move the body. 

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