Prakash Gedam: Giving dignity to abandoned bodies

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Feb 2019 10:24:26


By Dr Abhinav Mishra,


A LIFE well lived is incomplete without a respectful death and dignified funeral. While the ‘financially sound’class of the society mostly gets the privilege of a solemn and befitting send-off, people from impoverished section are,many a time,unfortunately denied this rite of passage.
As many as 1215 such unidentified bodies in Durg district had got a dignified and decent burial, thanks to the selfless efforts of an extremely passionate philanthropist named Prakash Gedam. Kudos to this highly compassionate and sensitive guy Prakash Gedam, aged 46, who had been altruistically involved, since last 15 years, in the uncommon and tabooed practice of providing the abandoned dead a proper funeral.

In fact, this person with charitable disposition had declared to donate his body, after death, to medical college, and had also encouraged another 600 persons to give their consent for ‘body-donation’. Moreover, for facilitating medical studies, Prakash, who believes that service to mankind is service to God, had arranged for six bodies, after completing all legal formalities and handed over to medical colleges.

Recognising the benevolence exhibited by Prakash Gedam, the  then President of India APJ Abdul Kalam had given him ‘Maharaja Agrasen Samman’, which is one of the reputed and highest awards in the field of  ‘social service’.
Why he possesses such an affinity for the unknown bodies? When asked, this kind-hearted person, who had been running a ‘photo-framing’ shop to run his livelihood, narrated a very emotional incident of his life.

He said with his eyes welled-up, “My father died at Akola (Maharashtra) in a tragic way and was cremated as an unidentified person. This incident changed my life’s mission. To pay homage to my deceased father, I took up this noble gesture of providing reverential funeral to the unknown bodies”. The heights of his passion for the service to mankind, especially the dead-ones, can be judged from the fact that he had decided to be unmarried forever so that he could be smoothly involved in giving the unknown dead a decent farewell.

Prakash Gedam had been working in tandem with the Government hospitals and Police department at Durg, which had been completing necessary legal formalities before handing him over the bodies for burial. He said, “Earlier, it was seen that because of the inappropriate burial, sometimes, stray dogs used to unearth the bodies and eat it, which was so inhuman. These bodies are not only the responsibility of the government, but the public’s too”.

“Generally the unidentified bodies are recovered from the streets, hospitals, railway station, bus stands etc. Old people without children, beggars, one who dies in accident without identity proof etc. comes in the deserted category. Unfortunately, sometimes very poor families dump the ailing old ones, who are on the verge of dying, on roadsides”, he added disappointingly.

Prakash Gedam had not been getting adequate financial support from the Government. Despite the fact that he has been a person of middle-class economic status, he had spent a whooping Rs 5 Lakhs to 6 Lakhs from his own pocket in last 15 years for providing respectful burial. He had been enthusiastically doing it throughout the year without bothering for any Sundays or other holidays.

This self-sacrificing man said, “In a year, nearly 100 unclaimed dead-bodies are being respectfully buried by me. And I had been doing it since the year 2004. Around Rs 600 is spent by me on each burial. I have to pay to the man, who digs a pit, rental charges of the ambulance, money spent in buying shroud etc. Sometimes, I have myself dig pits, when labourer is unavailable”.
ML Kotwani, Superintendent of Police (SP), Balod, said, “When I was posted as ASP at Durg, I noticed that Prakash Gedam actively helped Police department in burial of the unclaimed dead-bodies. His contributions are highly praiseworthy”.

To execute his other magnanimous visions, Prakash Gedam,a post-graduate in Hindi literature and Political Science, had started a NGO called ‘Aastha’, which has also been intimately associated with acts like mass-marriage of the poor and differently-abled (Divyaang) women, providing asylum to the deserted senior citizens, plantation in large-scale, encouraging for ‘eye-donation’ and blood-donation, providing free stationary items to poor students, donation to government relief fund in case of natural calamities, organizing free health camps, de-addiction camps, cleanliness drive in city etc.

Around 16 old persons, who had been abandoned by their families, had been residing in the asylum. Full credit goes to this good-natured person who had organized, free of cost, the mass-marriage of around 775 divyaang females hitherto. Dharmendra Sahu, Deputy Director, Social Welfare department, Govt of CG, (Durg) said,
“The contribution of Prakash Gedam in organizing mass-marriage of divyaang girls of Durg district has been significant. Proposal has been sent to the Govt for providing financial support to his NGO, who had been providing asylum to abandoned old people”.

Making an earnest appeal to the Government, Prakash Gedam said, “From the platform of The Hitavada, I would like to make a request to the Govt to earmark around 5 acres of land near Durg city, where the burial of unclaimed bodies could take place. Two air-conditioned ambulance and Rs 2000 per burial should be provided so that my noble work could be implemented more effectively”.