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Disposal of Covid bodies: KMC suspends 5 staff for extorting kin

KOLKATA: The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has suspended five employees on charges of extorting money related to three separate cases of disposal of bodies of Covid victims.

The suspended employees are Shambhu Mondal, Ananda Mallick, Samir Halder, Sanjay Rajak and Biswajit Mondal. Mondal was a security guard of Peace World mortuary, where Covid bodies are preserved before those are handed over to the family members. Mallick worked as a 'dom' in a South Kolkata crematorium while the three others worked as drivers and helpers of hearses.

A senior official of KMC's Health department said the first call was received on June 8 when Mondal charged a higher rate from the family members of the deceased for preserving the body.

The second complaint — that was received a day after — was related to extortion while cremation of one Covid victim, identified as Rajesh Singhania. It was alleged that Mallick had demanded Rs 5,000 for faster cremation as there was a long queue of bodies. In the third case, a complaint was received from a family, which alleged that the three associated with the ambulance demanded Rs 2700 for carrying the body to a crematorium in North Kolkata.

The complaint was passed over to Atin Ghosh, who is in-charge of the Health department of the civic body. Ghosh immediately served show-cause notices to the accused.

"There is a fixed rate for cremation of bodies and for issuance of death certificates and it is clearly mentioned at the office of each crematorium and burial ground. My personal phone number and KMC control room number are mentioned in these places where anybody can lodge complaints in case there is any excess demand. Strong action will be taken against anyone who is found to indulge in such practices," said Ghosh.

Meanwhile, KMC has notified that the Birjunala crematorium at Rajabagan will be closed from 4 pm on June 14 till 9 pm on May 15 for repair work. Two pyres in Birjunala are used for disposal of Covid bodies.

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