Mangaluru: Being a coastal city in Dakshina Kannada, Mangaluru has been the destination for all class of people, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion, in search of various jobs for their livelihood. Many such people do not have the means for the next meal, or a roof for shelter and are forced to sleep in the Railway station, footpaths and other public places.
Stephen Raj (55) and his wife Kamakshi (50) came to Mangaluru thirty years ago, after their love marriage in Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu. They have earned their living by working as daily wage labourers and all these years found place to sleep only on the footpaths of the city.
Stephen Raj fell ill about ten days ago and was admitted to the Government Wenlock Hospital. He was diagnosed with Pneumonia. He did not respond to treatment and expired on July 25. His wife Kamakshi did not have the means to perform the last rites. Balakrishna Rai and Haneef Saheb Pajipalla, members of Human Rights Federation of India, received a call from a person who happened to be in the hospital. When they contacted Kamakshi, she requested for Stephen Raj’s body to be buried in a Hindu burial ground after performing the last rites. With the help of the Health and Family Welfare Minister U T Khader, Dr Rajeshwari was asked to do the needful and she readily agreed.
Through the hospital staff, the job of taking the body from the Government Wenlock to Nandigudda burial grounds was entrusted to one D’Silva. D’Silva receives orders from the city corporation for removal of unclaimed bodies from the Government Wenlock hospital and other hospitals. As per the order, he gets Rs 2,000 for each body removed and disposed by him. These dead bodies belong to persons of different religions. There are allegations against D’Silva of mishandling the dead bodies without due respect, human touch while handling them and not performing any last rites. D’Silva had accepted to remove the body of Stephen Raj on July 26 by around 9:30 am and asked the concerned hospital staff to inform Kamakshi to wait at the mortuary.
At 10:30 am, the concerned hospital authority called Balakrishna Rai to inform that D’Silva was bringing the body and that the incharge of Nandigudde Burial ground Sudesh was not ready to allow the burial of Stephen Raj, if accompanied by any members of the Human Rights Federation of India. Human Rights Federation of India had come forward and expressed to take care of the uncared dead bodies from the Government Wenlock Hospital after performing the last rites. They have been asked by the District Administration to remove bodies and give a decent burial including performing of the last rites. So far, they have buried more than 10 bodies. Till a few months ago, these uncared dead bodies were declared as unclaimed/’anaatha’ and sold for Rs.10,000/- each.
Sudesh is the incharge of Nandigudde burial ground since 5 years, according to his claims, his father and grand father happened to be incharge during their times and has been allowed by the MCC to take care of the burial grounds, according to rules and regulations of the tender. But it is alleged that Sudesh is fleecing people exorbitantly for digging a pit for burial or burning the dead body and there are no receipts issued for the amount collected by him. There are allegations that Manjaiah Shetty, the Health officer appointed on contract, and Sudesh have a nexus in all dealings concerned to the Nandigudde Burial ground. It is also alleged that D’Silva, instead of removing the body of Stephen Raj, came to Nandigudda Burial ground to instigate Sudesh and tell him not to allow Stephen Raj’s body to be buried if accompanied by members of Human Rights Federation of India. Minister U T Khader and Mayor Jacintha were informed of the problem and they came to Nandigudde. It is learnt that the problem was solved after Vasanth Shetty, the President of Hindu Rudra Bhoomi, Samarakshana Vedike, had offered Rs.2,500 to Sudesh towards the burial of Stephen Raj. The burial is likely to happen around 10:00 am on Monday 27 July, 2015 and it is was suggest and proposed by the members of the Human Rights Federation of India to remove the body using a vehicle provided by the Government Wenlock Hospital and to not utilize the services of D’Silva.