On April 26, Assistant Sub Inspector Hemraj Singh, posted in Dayalpur police station, was assigned a call about a girl that was spotted wandering the streets of Brijpuri in north-east Delhi.
He was able to get the teenager medically tested and she was then sent to a shelter. Two days later, the medical report confirmed that the girl was COVID-19 positive. On May 21, the ASI was informed that the girl had died.
On Friday, Mr. Singh, who had spent the last month trying to trace the girls family, helped bury the teenager at a cemetery on Bahadurshah Zafar Marg. She has become the first unclaimed body to be buried at the cemetery.
The officer took her mortal remains from the Lok Nayak Hospital mortuary to the cemetery in an ambulance. The resources for a proper burial were pooled by Mr. Singh and the staff at the cemetery.
Recalling how and why he took it upon himself to perform the last rites, he said that the PCR call on April 26 had stated: Ek mahila logon ke darwazain khatkhata rahi hai (A woman is knocking on peoples doors).
When the ASI reached the spot, the girl was roaming the streets. She was not mentally sound but she told me her name and said that she was from Aligarh. She continued to repeat Aligarh, the officer said, adding that the girl who appeared to be around 16 years old was unable to furnish details about her parents.
The officer took her for a medical examination where her COVID-19 test was also conducted. Meanwhile, she was produced before a Child Welfare Committee who sent her to a womens shelter home in Shahdara.
Two days later, Mr. Singh was informed that her COVID-19 test report had come back positive. The shelter home staff first sent her to a facility in Najafgarh and when her condition worsened, they sent her to LNJP Hospital on May 4... On May 21, I received a call that she had passed away, he said.
Looking for family
While she was in hospital, Mr. Singh had prepared a missing report, put her information on the central system, and alerted Aligarh control room for any information on her family. But nothing came of his efforts.
Sabse dukh ki baat yahi hai ki uske ghar wale nahin mil paaye (The saddest part is that her family could not be found), the officer said.
On Friday, Mr. Singh collected the body and brought her to the cemetery where he had already spoken with third-generation grave digger Mohammed Shamim and another staff Waseem.
Its the first time an unclaimed body has been brought to the Kabaristan, Mr Shamim.
The cemetery staff said that when the driver of the excavator tractor was informed about the body being unclaimed, he also refused to take any money.
The policeman gave a little money from his own pocket, he added.
Mr. Singh said that he took the responsibility of burying the girl as he felt responsible as he was the investigating officer in the case and also because no one else was taking responsibility.