A city-based couple has taken upon themselves the task of conducting the last rites of unidentified bodies.
The bodies are handed over to the couple, who coordinate with police and Tiruchi Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Government Hospital, after investigation and if no claims are made.
P. Vijayakumar and his wife M. Chitra perform the burial or cremation at their own expense. They have created a fund, which includes a portion of their monthly earnings, through which they foot the bill for rituals and other expenditure.
Ms. Chitra, an advocate, says an incident that occurred when she was in class 9 is the motivation behind the initiative. An old woman living near her parents’ house died and her son did not perform the last rites. After days, Ms. Chitra and her friends collected money from neighbours and funded the funeral. While her family was not supportive, years later she expressed her intention to her husband who supported it.
Her job as an advocate helps in forging trusting relationships with police personnel, who hand over the bodies to her, Ms. Chitra said.
It also helps in navigating the legal formalities. However, such work is never without stigma. “"Many policemen have told me not to come to crematoriam or burial ground as a woman is not allowed there. Times are changing,” she quipped.
When a person without known relatives dies, the body is kept at the mortuary in Tiruchi GH and police put out information about the person. “After about a week, they reach out to people like us who perform the funeral,” Mr. Vijayakumar said.
So far, the couple has perfomed the funeral rites of 100 unidentified bodies.
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