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Chamoli Tragedy: Identifying decomposed bodies traumatise kin

DNA samples of families being collected to match with recovered dead members
The bodies of the 14 labourers missing from Jharkhand in the Chamoli glacier burst are yet to be identified.

Saurav Roy   |   Ranchi   |   Published 17.02.21, 09:00 PM

Kin of Jharkhand labourers missing in the Chamoli disaster are dealing with much more than the trauma of losing a family member – the sole bread earner in most of the cases. They now have the task of identifying their dear ones as partially-decomposed bodies are being fished out of the muck – a sight that can shake the strongest. The sight is mortifying for the kin of the missing labourers, who have been camping in Uttarakhand with the sole purpose of recognising the corpses being recovered.

So far, 58 bodies have been found from the site of the disaster of which only 31 have been identified. The bodies of the 14 labourers missing from Jharkhand are yet to be identified. The family is hoping against hope to meet their missing family member alive, despite knowing that the chances are slim.


Jaman Mahto, a resident of Gola Block in Ramgarh, was at Chamoli on Wednesday to identify his son-in-law, Kuldip Kumar Mahto, who was working at a National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) site in Tapovan. He has been staying there for nearly a week now, and the experience of dealing with the trauma of identifying his son-in-law among defaced and decomposed bodies has left him scarred for life, he said.

“I know there is no chance for his (Kuldip) survival. I want this process to end as soon as possible, so I can take his body and go home,” said Jaman. His voice quivered as he added, “Kuldip is survived by his widow and two daughters, who are too young to take on the responsibility of the family. All of them are emotionally shattered, and I don’t know how they will cope with this loss. He was only 30-year-old.”

Similar is the experience of the 13 other families since the Chamoli tragedy struck.

An NTPC contractor, Ajay Kumar Singh, who was making travel arrangements for the kin of missing labourers in Chamoli admitted that the chance of survival of the missing labourers was bleak. But he was still cooperating with the families of missing labourers and trying to ensure that the bodies are identified.

“The bodies are so badly decomposed after being trapped under the debris for several days that it is almost impossible to identify them. Six more people from Ramgarh district of Jharkhand were here to identify bodies. They left yesterday,” said Singh.

Another NTPC contractor Vinod Singh while explaining the process for identification said, “Once a body is found, it is cleaned and shown to the family members for identification. Following which DNA samples of family members are collected and matched with the recovered bodies.”

As per records with the state control room, as many as nine persons from Lohardaga, four from Ramgarh, and one from Bokaro are missing from Chamoli since the tragedy struck. Besides Kuldeep, Birsai Mahto, Madan Mahto, and Jitendra Mahto are Ramgarh labourers missing from Chamoli.

Birsai’s nephew Vikrant Mahto mentioned that the bereaved family is only hoping for the formalities to get over soon, so they can get the compensation and the time to overcome their loss. “The family members of all the four missing labourers have given their DNA samples for identification of the bodies,” added Vikrant.

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