Scared of Covid, people abandon ex-headmaster's body in Odisha; 4 scribes step forward to cremate it


Bhubaneswar: In a great humanitarian gesture which also exposed the faultlines in Odisha's administration apparatus, the body of a retired headmaster was left unattended in Shergarh village of Ganjam district.

Pitambar Padhi succumbed on Thursday after suffering from fever and cough for about a fortnight. His two sons live abroad and the neighbours didn't dare come in contact with the body fearing that it might be infected with the Corona virus. The unfortunate incident also exposed the apathy of the State's administration.

Therefore, four journalists rolled up their sleeves and rose to the occasion, thus somewhat saving humanity from being totally shamed. They started preparing to cremate the body of Padhi who had actually died of a coronary artery ailment.

The body was lying unattended until the four journalists -- identified as Ajit Panda, Balaji Pradhan, Meghnad Das and Shankar Pradhan -- came forward to conduct Padhi's last rites.

The journalists ferried the body in an ambulance and cremated it wearing PPEs. They even took care of all the expenses of the final rites themselves.

"The retired headmaster had died due to artery disease and typhoid. However, his neighbours and villagers thought he might have contracted Coronavirus. His two sons are living abroad. So we, the four journalists, cremated the body," Shankar Pradhan said.

A similar incident was reported recently from Ganjam where the body of a woman was left unattended for almost 15 hours in her village due to the others fearing that they might contract Coronavirus. Although the reason behind her death was not ascertained, no one in the village came forward to perform her last rites fearing that she had fallen to Coronavirus.

Odisha has reported a total of 21,099 Covid cases so far. Ganjam district leads the tally among other districts with 6,902 cases.