SHILLONG, April 17 - Expressing �deep concern and agony� over the delay in finding a resting place for the first COVID-19 victim of Meghalaya, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu today said that he was �deeply disturbed� by the �inhuman� incident.
Reacting to the incident, Naidu said: �Such incidents are a blot on the society�s consciousness and of great concern for all of us irrespective of party, religion and region.�
The deceased was a doctor and his body was not allowed to be cremated or buried by local residents and traditional heads of Jhalupara in the State capital and also by the local traditional heads of Nongpoh in their respective areas.
Due to the unfortunate development, his mortal remains were not laid to rest for over 24 hours and finally on Thursday afternoon, the burial took place at the Presbyterian Church cemetery at Raitsamthiah here.
Naidu, on his Facebook page, said that he was �deeply disturbed� by the news and added that �there is an urgent need to educate the people and remove misconceptions on COVID-19 to prevent such inhuman incidents in future�.
The Vice President said that �it is a matter of deep anguish that such an incident occurred in spite of the advisory issued by the Central Government in March for the management of dead bodies infected with novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).�
Urging the citizens to be �empathetic and respond compassionately�, the Vice President asked the people �not to react irrationally�, especially during these testing times.
�People must act responsibly and not believe in rumours. Shared my concern with the Home Secretary and the Director General of Indian Council for Medical Research. The need of the hour is to create greater social awareness among the general public by various stakeholders,� Naidu said.
Meanwhile, a public interest litigation was filed by the High Court of the Meghalaya Bar Association against the �incompetent� manner in which the Government authorities are tackling the COVID-19 outbreak in the State and also on the crisis arising out of the COVID-19 victim�s demise.
Based on the PIL, the Meghalaya High Court passed several directions to the State Government. It ordered the State Government to register cases against those who obstruct efforts to control the pandemic. �Any person, local body, Durbar Shnong or organization which obstructs the State authorities in the control of the pandemic or any matter connected thereto, such as dead body management, cremation and burial shall be dealt with in accordance with law and cases to be registered under appropriate provisions of law,� the court ordered.
The order was passed by a division bench, comprising Justice HS Thangkhiew and Justice Wanlura Diengdoh, via video conferencing on Thursday. The bench further ruled that �State authorities shall sensitize the public especially where the cremation or burial grounds are situated to avoid any further unfortunate incident as had been witnessed on Wednesday.�
The High Court ordered the State authorities to strictly follow the guidelines on dead body management as prescribed by the Government of India and the World Health Organization, apart from notifying the same for the general public for their sensitization.
The petitioners had raised �extreme urgent concerns� since the first positive COVID case was detected in Shillong which led to the death of a senior doctor, and �flagged the incompetent manner in which the State authorities handled the situation�.