Indian Catholic News

Delhi archbishop speaks up against hospitals' callous attitude

Dalits and indigenous people living in poverty face indignity even in death.

File photo (Photo courtesy: The Hindu)
New Delhi: 

Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi has expressed shock over the "apathy" of local governments toward dead people from poor backgrounds, particularly those belonging to indigenous and Dalit communities.

"On the one hand, we are trumpeting that India is a super power and the world's third largest economy, while on the other, day-to-day incidents of apathy and the lack of basic amenities and health care for the poor continues to contradict the government's tall claims," he said in a statement.

The archbishop was referring to an incident in August where a tribal man was forced to carry the dead body of his wife on his shoulder for 10 kilometers from the hospital to his home in Kalahandi district, Odisha state after hospital authorities denied him a mortuary van.

On another occasion, also in August, a dead woman's body was cut in two by hospital authorities in Balasore district in Odisha to make it fit into a plastic bag so it could be more easily transported home as there was no ambulance available.

In Uttar Pradesh's Meerut district, a woman was denied an ambulance on Sept. 5 and had to spend the whole night outside the hospital with her infant daughter's dead body. The driver of the ambulance had allegedly refused to drive them because their home was in another district.

"These incidents remind us that we as a democratic state are lacking even basic amenities and facilities to provide a dignified burial or last rites for the dead, particularly the poor and vulnerable sections of the society," Archbishop Couto said.

Common facilities such as mortuary and ambulances are often denied to people living in poverty based on the fear that they will somehow pollute the facilities by using them. As a law prohibits discrimination based on caste, authorities offer various other excuses to deny these facilities to Dalit or people from former untouchable communities and other marginalized groups.

"The archbishop is speaking for people of all faiths and is pointing out a tough social issue," said Father Savarimuthu Sankar, spokesperson for Delhi Archdiocese. The recent incidents show how "human rights are violated every step of the way in this country."

Archbishop Couto, in his statement, appealed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government to focus on providing basic amenities in rural health care centers and empowering village councils with adequate infrastructure. "The government must explore the possibility of responding quickly to distress calls through a centralized mechanism that transcends the barriers of state and language," he said.

Source: UCAN

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