Wailing child India
Video grab of a year-old child in India's Damoh city clinging on to his dead mother's chest trying to breastfeed YouTube screenshot

An infant found clinging to his dead mother's breasts and trying to wake her up was rescued by police officers in Damoh city in India's Madhya Pradesh state but a local government hospital refused to admit him for treatment because there was no one to pay the minimal admission fee.

The child, about a year old, and the dead woman were spotted by people early morning Wednesday (24 May) near railways tracks in the city. They said that the child was apparently hungry and trying to breastfeed.

A video taken and shared online by an onlooker showed the child nibbling on a biscuit and trying to breastfeed.

"The child wailed aloud when he was separated from his mother," railway police officer Anil Marawi told the Hindustan Times, adding that the scene moved everyone gathered at the scene, including his officers.

"It shakes you to the core, however hardened you have become over the years."

Police believe the woman could have fallen off a train or was hit by one while she was trying to cross the tracks. She had injuries at the back of the head but the child was unhurt. They think the woman may not have died immediately and had tried to feed her son before eventually succumbing to the injuries.

"She was injured but probably conscious ... opened a biscuit packet and gave some to the child. She breastfed her child to ensure he survives," the officer said. He said that the mother was probably holding the baby close to her chest when she fell, which would explain how the child escaped unhurt.

The police think the woman had died only moments before her body was spotted by local people.

The government hospital refused to admit the boy for treatment because there was no one to pay the admission fee of 10 Indian rupees (10p, 15 cents). He was attended to only after a ward boy at the hospital, Tarun Tiwari, paid the money.

The police have sent the woman's body for postmortem and the boy to a child-care home. They are trying to locate the family members using the lone lead of a purse found near the her body. "We will publish notices ... If his family members come, we will verify their credentials and hand him to them," said Sudhir Vidyarthi, chairperson of the Damoh child welfare committee.