Patna, Oct. 16: The struggle of a widow to get the death certificate of her husband, who died in judicial custody, has laid bare the tall claims of the state government’s sushasan (good governance).
Shakuntala Devi has been shuttling between Munger divisional jail and the Sadar hospital for over a year-and-a-half to procure the death certificate of her husband, who died in March 2012.
Her husband Umakant Bind (45) was arrested on January 24 last year in connection with a case related to theft of woodblocks from a nearby forest. He was subsequently lodged in the Munger divisional jail where he died on March 11, 2012.
After his death, Shakuntala claimed he died owing to lack of proper medical facilities in the jail hospital. She also petitioned to the superintendent of Munger divisional jail seeking the death certificate under the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. The office of the jail superintendent informed her in writing that since her husband had died at the Sadar hospital during treatment, she should approach the former.
She applied for the death certificate on November 3, 2012. The office of the jail superintendent, however, admitted that her husband, an undertrial, died in judicial custody. Shakuntala then approached the Sadar hospital for her husband’s death certificate. The chief medical officer of the sadar hospital also turned down her request on the plea that only post-mortem was conducted at the hospital. “We are not supposed to provide you the death certificate of your husband as only his post-mortem was conducted at the hospital and not treatment,” the chief medical officer, Jawahar Prasad, reportedly said.
Shakuntala finally appeared at the weekly janata durbar of district magistrate (DM) Narendra Kumar Singh on August 22 this year.
She has now decided to knock the door of the state human rights commission. “I have no option than to seek the help of the human rights commission,” she said.
Shakuntala said she was finding it hard to feed her three children as she had no source of income. “I lost one of my three daughters, Saheli. She died in April this year,” she said, adding that she had been deprived of the benefits of the government’s welfare schemes for want of the death certificate.
The information provided to a Munger-based RTI activist, Om Prakash Poddar, by the Munger divisional jail revealed that 28 undertrials and convicts died in prison between 1998 and 2009.