The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dead in tragedy of errors

Calcutta, Jan. 14: Two bodies were switched today at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital, a mistake that was spotted just before a group of bereaved relatives was about to cremate the wrong one.

Gopal Sarkar, a 29-year-old resident of Dakshindari of Lake Town, was electrocuted — between the Ultadanga and Dum Dum railway stations — while he was travelling atop a coach. He was brought to NRS Hospital and pronounced dead.

Around the same time, 39-year-old Pintu Das of the Calcutta Improvement Trust complex in Kasba met with an accident near Park Circus. He, too, was rushed to the same hospital and was declared dead on arrival.

Both bodies were brought out of the morgue around the same time today and Das’ friends, who arrived there before Sarkar’s, were handed over one of the bodies.

Das’ friends — given the body wrapped almost entirely in a bundle of white cloth and polythene — took it to their neighbourhood in a Kasba Club Samanway Committee hearse. Wreaths were placed, a few friends shouted slogans — “Pintu Das amar rahe (Long live Pintu Das)” and “Pintu Das, amra tomay bhulchhi na, bhulbo na (Pintu Das, we will never forget you)” — and the small portion of the face that was still visible was all but covered under the flowers and wreaths.

Back at the NRS morgue, Sarkar’s friends were being given a body with the feet sticking out of the bundle of white cloth. “He died of electrocution,” one of the friends, Ratan Naskar, cried out. “This body, with feet clearly not charred, cannot be Gopal’s,” he insisted.

The Entally police station outpost at the hospital was informed and it called the organisation that provided the hearse.

Sarkar’s body — then being readied by Das’ family for the final journey — was brought back to the hospital and the case of mistaken identity settled.

NRS deputy superintendent D.K. Jha said there was no official complaint.

The dead don’t complain.

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