An official of the Chhattisgarh Health Department said on Wednesday that the government will transport home the dead bodies of poor patients who die in government hospitals for free, with Chief Minister Raman Singh approving the project.
The plan, in its first phase, would be implemented in all 27 district hospitals, in big hospitals in major towns and in those located along national highways.
"The state government has provisioned Rs 75 lakh for this project in the current fiscal and we are working overtime to implement it at the earliest," Health Secretary Vikas Sheel told IANS.
Three dozen ambulances would be initially commissioned, two of which would be stationed at Mekahara, the biggest health facility in the state, while the remaining would be earmarked for the district hospitals.
As per the plan, in the event of a patient expiring in a government hospital, the relatives would simply have to inform the hospital in-charge, who would be responsible for providing an ambulance within 15 minutes to the deceased person's family to transport the body home.
Health Minister Amar Agrawal described the state government's decision as "pro-humanity". "It is really painful that the body of a deceased person sometimes reaches home very late for want of money as the poor cannot pay the hefty sums demanded by private ambulance operators. The government has decided to take on this responsibility, as a service to humanity," he said.
The rate for carrying a dead body within the city varies between Rs.2,000 and Rs.5,000, while the charges for transporting it outside city limits is prohibitive. Packaging and hiring a freezer to keep the body safe during longer transportation costs another Rs.2,000.
Some NGOs like "Badhte Kadam" provide cheaper ambulance services, but owing to limited number of vehicles, the facility eludes the vast majority of the poor.