- A local journalist, who died in an accident, was carried to hospital in a garbage van, triggering anger and outrage among his family members and the media fraternity
- Haveri SP K Parashuram said police had tried to get a private vehicle to carry the body but nothing was available due to the festival rush
Mounesh Potharaj, 28, had completed his last assignment as a reporter for a TV channel on Saturday and was to join another media company in Belagavi. He was heading home to Gadag when his bike crashed into a tree.Potharaj died immediately after the accident near Gunduru village in Hangal taluk. A case was registered at Hangal police station.Police moved his body to the Hangal government hospital in a municipal garbage van. A video of the body being carried went viral on social media and drew widespread condemnation.
Potharaj’s parents were construction labourers and he too had worked as a coolie while studying. On Saturday, he was returning home at Chebbi village in Shirahattitaluk of Gadag.
“It’s an inhumane act by police, who were supposed to arrange an ambulance or body carrier by calling the health department or district administration. But they used a garbage van to transport the body to hospital. We strongly condemn it and will hold a protest soon,” said Ningappa Chavadi, president of the Haveri district unit of Karnataka State Working Journalists Union.
Potharaj’s uncle, Nagaraj, said, “When we objected to police carrying Mounesh’s body in a garbage vehicle, they didn’t listen to us. They shouldn’t use such vehicles to shift anyone’s body,” he said.
Haveri SP K Parashuram said police had tried to get a private vehicle to carry the body but nothing was available due to the festival rush.
“No vehicle is provided to us to shift bodies. Even ambulance won’t carry bodies. So we have been shifting bodies on locally available vehicles. Normally we get vehicles from local authorities, but this time we did not get any. We didn’t intend to hurt anyone. After the postmortem, the body was shifted on an ambulance,” he said.
It is not clear why the ambulance was not available to carry the body from the accident site.
The incident came to light only on Sunday morning. The Hangal police, who were alerted about the accident, arrived at the spot and shifted the body to the Government Hospital in a garbage van belonging to the Hangal town municipal council.
Later, though journalists raised objection, the police brushed it aside saying no ambulance was available to shift the body. “We had no intention of hurting anybody, Since Saturday was festival, no vehicle was available. We had no alternative,” was Haveri Superintendent of Police K Parashuram’s defence.
Even worse was what happened at the Hangal government hospital. The hospital staff refused to touch the body unless they were paid for it. “They collected money to wrap the body but had packed it in torn cloth. Shockingly, blood was oozing out from the body,” said Basavraj, a journalist at Hanagal. Another journalist himself purchased new cloth and gave it to the hospital staff to wrap the body.
The hospital authorities came around only after journalists from Sirsi and Hangal threatened to stage a dharna. Doctor Harish, who conducted the autopsy on Mounesh Pothraj, told TNIE, “This is a medico-legal case. I have conducted the autopsy and submitted the report to the police. I cannot disclose anything more.