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After death, a body blow

Calcutta, Sept. 13: Calcutta would not touch Bejoy Dey when he lay bleeding on a road; its doms would not touch him when he lay dead in a morgue.

Grade D staff at the Barrackpore police mortuary last evening asked for a bribe to take the body inside, a relative said. This afternoon, they demanded another — threatening to otherwise stitch the body up so badly after the post-mortem that “everything would spill out”.

The 25-year-old techie, whose skull was crushed by a vehicle yesterday morning, had lain on Nicco Park Road for 40 minutes as cars rushed past him and a police van excused itself citing “VIP shift”. He was declared dead at a hospital and brought to the morgue.

“We were told the autopsy would be done the next day,” Shankar Bej said. “That meant keeping the body there overnight. But the doms refused to take it inside unless we paid them.”

“We couldn’t believe our ears,” said Bej. “Some among us were weeping inconsolably but these people were unmoved. Only after we paid them Rs 500 did they get some ice for the body.”

The Grade D staff emerged again while the post-mortem was being done today.

“They said they wouldn’t stitch the body properly unless we paid them Rs 720,” said Prashanta Ghosh, a family friend. “They said, ‘We would stitch him up so badly you won’t recognise him. His organs will spill out’. We were disgusted,” Ghosh said.

“We, of course, paid the money. Eleven bodies were piled up for post-mortem —those families received the same treatment. I got the name of one of the doms: Bapi Dom.”

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said morgues were not his ministry’s business but “if the family lodges a complaint with us, we will take the matter up.”

“This is an everyday affair here,” said the Barrackpore additional superintendent of police, B. Dasgupta.

“The doms are a law unto themselves. If we are strict with them, they wouldn’t touch the bodies.”

Ghosh said the doms told him the government didn’t pay them but Dasgupta said this was a lie.

Dey will be cremated tomorrow. His mother Mita said, “Had someone taken my son to hospital, he might have survived.”

The chief minister said, “We’re trying to find out if any policemen were near the spot at the time.”

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