Chennai

Burial of bodies in vaults comes to light

One of the concrete vaults put up for disposal of dead bodies at St.Joseph’s Hospice for Dying Destitute at Paaleswaram was opened in the presence of police and district welfare department officials on Thursday.
Staff Reporter KANCHEEPURAM 03 February 2012 02:21 IST
Updated: 03 February 2012 02:21 IST

Officials visit home for destitute to check facts

Unauthorised disposal of bodies at a home for destitute persons functioning at Paaleswaram in Salavakkam police station limits in Kancheepuram district came to light after some local people brought it to the notice of media.

The institution, St. Joseph's Hospice for Dying Destitute, founded by Father R. V. Thomas, became operational from March 2011 after getting proper permission from the Department of Social Welfare. Destitute persons from different parts of State were brought to the home, set up on a 16-acre land and nurtured.

Fr. Thomas was said to have played a key role in setting up a similar institution at Mettur Gate in Dindigul district in 2006 and to have taken more than 5000 persons left unattended by their relatives, into the Hospice fold.

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While around 4200 persons out of those brought to the Dindigul Hospice were given treatment for ailment, mental and physical, and sent back to their places of choice during the last five years, another 1179 people have died in peace at the Hospice, according to a pamphlet issued by the Hospice.

At present, 86 persons were housed at the Paaleswaram Hospice and nearly 52 who died during the last 11 months were “buried” in reusable vaults, constructed on the Hospice campus.

Meanwhile, a section of local residents annoyed by the method adopted for disposal of bodies on the Hospice campus brought it to the notice of the media as Fr. Thomas and others claimed that they had obtained permission from the authorities to dispose of bodies through reusable vault method, where the corpse wrapped in a cloth was allowed to decay on its own.

Subsequently, on Thursday afternoon, a team of officials from the Social Welfare Department, headed by District Social Welfare Officer, Sarguna and Deputy Superintendent of Police, Madurantakam, Sridevi went to the Hospice to ascertain the facts. Fr. Thomas claimed that such a method was being adopted widely in Kerala and in some parts of Dindigul district and he had obtained permission from the Social Welfare Department to run an orphanage at Paaleswaram.

When Ms.Sarguna pointed out that the rules and regulations, laid down by the department while granting the permission, clearly say that any death should be immediately intimated to the department and a decent burial of the dead should be ensured, Fr.Thomas claimed that he used to inform the Village Administrative Officer whenever a death occurred in the Hospice. He also said he had explained the reusable vault method to the Superintendent of Police, Kancheepuram Police District in person while obtaining a no-objection certificate from the SP.

However, he was not able to produce proper documents bearing the seal and signature of the VAO on the list of dead persons or the set of documents, except a covering letter addressed to the SP.

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