While dignity during life time can be ensured by the living person, it becomes the bounden duty of the near and dear ones of that person to ensure that there is dignity in death. While some are lucky in getting a dignified send off, some are not. There are those who are left to die uncared for by the roadside, some whose identity is not known, others who are abandoned in hospital after being admitted, and some others who are abandoned in hospital after death.

All this because there are no family members in some cases, in others the family members do not have the means to do the last rites, while in some cases there is no inclination. Organisations that are involved in giving a dignified burial to such unclaimed bodies are getting more and more number of bodies with each passing month.

From eight bodies a month in 2004, ‘Thozhar Trust’ now buries more than 30. And, it only seems to be on the increasing trend, according to P. Shanthakumar, Managing Director of the Trust. The Trust has so far buried 1,850 unclaimed bodies from the morgue in Coimbatore Medical College Hospital (CMCH) with the help of volunteers who include women and college students.

Mr. Shanthakumar says: “Couples without children or with a single child are increasing. Even those who have money are in a situation where the only son or daughter is abroad and someone else has to do the last rites in the event of them not able to arrive at short notice.

In the case of economically weaker sections, it is still worse with sons or family members dumping the dead body, or one who is about to die, on the road”. In addition to these cases are those who have lived as beggars, in old age homes, who die in accidents without identity proof.

There are many children who themselves call up an organisation and express their inability to bury their parent. The minimum cost involved in a burial without religious rituals is estimated to be Rs. 4,000. There is also another side to this state of affairs. There are many elders who call the members of the organisation and ask them to take care of their last rites.