Chennai’s flood-hit dead need to bribe to get cremated

CORRUPchennaiflodThe devastating floods in Chennai, the likes of which have never been seen in a century, killed 270 people and affected thousands of people who lost everything.

Among them was R Nalini, a sanitation worker at the Madras Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology Hospitals. The mother of three young adults, Nalini was swept away by flood waters on the main road leading to her home, which in fact was one of the worst affected areas in Chennai, as floods saw most or the houses there totally submerged in waist-deep water.

Nalini’s family now believes she was swept away while trying to navigate the floodwaters after getting off the bus.

Earlier when they did not hear from her they assumed Nalini was staying over at the hospital. When they did not hear from her for over two days they searched the hospital and police stations as the rain continued to batter them.

Turned out Nalini’s body was taken to a mortuary and placed with other bodies that had been recovered from the city. The family accompanied by a social worker eventually went to acquire a police report to claim the body of their mother, but the sad event turned into a bureaucratic nightmare.

It took some 3 hours to get a copy of the documents that they took to the mortuary where they found the body in an advanced state of decay, bloated and covered with worms, as it had not been attended to by the staff. They then took the body to the government crematorium that is run by local contractors who demanded Rs.15,000 to conduct the last rites. The family had no choice and paid a bribe of Rs.4000.

The grieving family are now at a loss, as two work at a grocery store, while the brother a stone cutter gets temp work from contractors, so their mother’s salary was a vital component of the family’s income

The son says the hospital had promised to pay a month’s salary, but he is not sure if or when his mother’s pension fund will be released.