Till a few decades back, even a beggar or a mentally deranged person would have got, at least, some dignity after death. Locality people would have initiative to take care of the burial or cremation. The man or woman might have been ignored by the society for the whole life, but not after death. Now they are taken to the hospital, and to the dumping yard, after death. The municipality takes care of the burial (or dumping).

Of late there are several reports of bodies lying unclaimed in the Shillong Civil Hospital. While some of them are unidentified bodies, some of the deceased’s families hail from Shillong itself. They bring the person to the hospital, leave him there and never bother to come back. This prompts the hospitals to frequently issue notices requesting the relatives to collect the bodies, otherwise they would be given to the Shillong Municipal Board for ‘disposal’. Such a moral degradation in the society! Even the most useless person deserves some care from the family after the death.

While there is no way to correct the society at once, the government can do a lot in this regard. If a person has no family, he must have the government by his side. The government is feeding even the hardened criminals in jails. That’s why government is for – to ensure right to equality. This issue could be trivial for the local government – not at all lucrative to garner votes – to deal with. But, the government must understand the pain every sensible person goes through when he comes across instances of ailing people being left to die in hospitals by their own relatives. The more painful is the equally insensitive treatment of the body by the municipality. The municipality should not be blamed for it. Unless it is armed with proper government orders and wherewithal, the municipality cannot arrange for formal burial or cremation system. With gradual decline in social values, more and more people are likely to have undignified deaths, followed by dumping of their bodies. Should the government wait till such a time or get its act together so save the future embarrassment.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 18, 2017)

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