More than 100 unidentified decomposed bodies were burnt in a heap at the Sibpur crematorium in Howrah on Sunday night.
They were burnt after being kept in Howrah police morgue for at least three months, violating environmental norms and a Calcutta High Court directive, alleged a green activist. “During the last several months there was no cremation of unclaimed dead bodies,” alleged environmentalist Subhas Datta on Monday to district magistrate of Howrah, Mukta Arya, and the chief medical officer of health (CMOH) of Howrah.
Datta claimed that “the refrigeration/cooling system of the morgue was out of gear for several months” and alleged that the bodies were burnt in an unhygienic manner. “The open burning of so many decomposed bodies is a violation of an environmental act.”
According to Biswajit Mukherjee, a retired chief law officer of the state pollution control board, openly burning bodies wrapped in plastic was a violation of Section 7 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 as it is deemed to produce suspended air pollutants and toxic dioxins at critical level. He said it was also a violation of CrPC 133, which is about public nuisance,
“In urban areas, an electric crematorium is preferred,” said a senior environment department official.
In 1997, Calcutta High Court passed an order in response to a petition filed by Datta, where it directed all morgues in the state to install refrigeration systems and cremate unclaimed bodies at least once every month.
“We had written to both Howrah Municipal Corporation and the police commissioner’s office a few times. Finally some bodies were cremated yesterday,” said Nitai Chandra Mandal, CMOH Howrah, on Monday evening.
He said the refrigeration system was functional but accepted that the number of bodies kept in the morgue was beyond its capacity.
“...I have heard that more than hundred bodies were burnt in an unfortunate manner. We are contemplating to ensure that in future such exercise is carried out in a more civilized manner,” said Sujay Chakraborty, the present administrator in the civic body.