Calcutta High Court has stepped in to set right a decidedly inhumane attitude towards those who have perished on account of coronavirus.
Wednesday’s order (coram: TBN Radhakrishnan, CJ; and Arijit Banerjee, J) has, albeit belatedly, directed the West Bengal government to hand over bodies of Covid victims to next of kin to enable them to perform the last rites.

This is as it should be in a civilised society. As often as not in West Bengal, the end has been nothing short of inhuman. The health department and hospitals have been
remarkably insensitive towards deaths. Bodies have either been dumped in the vast garbage vat in Dhapa, or placed on a hospital bed next to a patient undergoing treatment, or driven away in an ambulance along with other casualties.

The last happened very recently in Calcutta Medical College
and Hospital, a designated facility to treat Covid patients. In all these cases, the families were not informed about the end.

At CMC, the father of a 13-year-old girl ran behind the ambulance when he realised that his daughter was among the victims inside the vehicle. It is fervently to be hoped that such instances of inhumanity will end in the wake of the High Court order.

The Bench has underlined the fundamental certitudes. It is explicit on the point that “when the post mortem of the body is not required, it shall be handed over to the immediate next of kin of the deceased after completion of hospital formalities. The body should be secured in a bag so as to eliminate/minimise the risk to those transporting the casualty”.

Members of the family and acquaintances have been allowed to accompany the body to the crematorium/burial ground. A measure of empathy on the final day has thus been restored by the court. “Religious rituals, such as reading from religious texts, sprinkling of holy water, offering grains and other last rites that do not require touching of the body should be allowed.”

Regretfully, the response of hospital authorities has been remarkably insensitive with coronavirus deaths, and almost consistently so. The death certificate doesn’t always reaffirm Covid as the cause and the circumstances are allowed to remain in a bubble of fake news and untruth.

As happened on 10 May with the death of the distinguished historian, Professor Hari Vasudevan. He
was certified to have passed away on account of “chronic ailments”. In the net, such doctored death certificates ~ crafted on instructions from on high ~ are designed to dumb down the casualty figures.

The High Court order is reported to have been issued in response to a petition that alleged the government was not handing over bodies to members
of the family “only to suppress the figure of total deaths from coronavirus”.

If we can live with lockdowns at short notice and assorted other curbs,
surely we can live with the truth.