N. Annamalai, a GRP special SI, has the job of identifying dead bodies and handing them over; often, he goes a step ahead and cremates them

‘Kavalthurai ungal nanban’ (the police is your friend) is a phrase made famous by Kollywood. But some like N. Annamalai, a Government Railway Police (GRP) special sub-inspector, even go to the extent of helping the dead.

Mr. Annamalai joined the Armed Reserve in 1988 and got into the GRP in 1996. Since his job is to attend to any corpse found on railway tracks, especially in Chennai and its suburbs, trace the relatives and hand it over to them,he is most often found in mortuaries. Attached to the GRP (Chennai Central), he is a familiar face at the Washermenpet crematorium.

Though his job technically ends with identifying dead bodies and informing the relatives, he goes a step ahead and cremates them. Over the past 16 years he has helped cremate and bury 4,000 bodies.

“In 1995, my father, a railway employee, passed away at the Perambur Railway Hospital. After this I found it difficult to get an ambulance to take him home. This made me think about the less privileged,” he recollected.

On an average, around 20 unclaimed bodies are found on railway tracks every month. “First, I try to identify their religion and contact details. I take them to a government hospital, ensure the post-mortem is conducted, and inform the relatives. If no one claims the body for nearly a month, I take steps for a cremation or burial,” he says.

Earlier, he used to spend money from his pocket to transport the bodies in bullock- or horse-drawn carts to the burial ground. “Now I use the government’s free hearse van. It is very helpful for the poor sections of society too,” he says.

Finding it impossible to fund the funerals completely by himself, he has tied up with a few NGOs. “I consider the victim as my relative and make the necessary arrangements. The NGOs conduct the final rituals,” says Mr. Annamalai.

But how does his family react? “My wife sometimes gets angry and questions why I am doing more than what I am required to do. For me it is social service, it gives me some peace of mind,” he adds.

Meanwhile, inspector general of police, railways, Seema Agarwal (GRP), is all praise for this policeman who is clearly going beyond the call of duty.

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