Grave problems!

Grave problems!

In a city where thousands of people struggle for a place to live, it appears even death offers no solution. Graveyards in the City are faced with an acute space crunch, and the rising number of deaths has only aggravated the problem.

The City’s explosive growth has triggered a corresponding rise in the deaths due to accidents, diseases, and of course, natural causes. According to statistics available with the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the death rate has remained constant over the years. The number has been hovering at 30,000 per year in the last three years. Officials estimate that 10 per cent of the deaths go unreported every year. So where is the space to bury or burn them?

While there are reasons to believe that the BBMP is trying its best to let the dead rest in peace, the constant need for land to funnel the development projects has left the City without any outlet to bury the bodies.

While some communities have trouble in finding the space to bury their own, other castes and religions are crying out for better maintenance of their burial grounds. But cutting across all castes and religions, most burial grounds are left to rot with haphazard burial system, asymmetric laying of bodies. As if these weren’t problematic enough, these places have little or no security. Result: Anti-social elements scavenge for valuables and bodies at the burial sites.

Residents in areas close to crematoriums have also raised concerns over the foul smell emitting from the incinerators. For instance, in Chamarajpet, at one of the oldest and more frequented of the crematoriums, a separate platform has been created for the burning of the bodies in the conventional pyre system. A similar facility could be found at the Banashankari crematorium as well. 

The Palike officials blamed the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) for the land shortage. “If the BDA had thought of providing space for the burial grounds or crematoriums, the City would not have faced problems of such large a scale,” says a Palike official.

On their part, the BDA officials say the provision for Civic Amenity Sites are being made in every layout. “While the number of such sites may be few, there is provision for a Civic Amenity site where a burial ground or a crematorium can be constructed,” a BDA official elaborates.

But even when the BBMP puts the blame on BDA for not setting aside exclusive space for burial grounds, there appears to be no justification for the lack of maintenance of the existing structures by the Palike. 

No dedicated staff

Most Hindu burial grounds maintained by the BBMP are devoid of any facilities. It is alleged that the Palike doesn’t even recognise the need to keep a dedicated staff for the upkeep of the burial grounds.

“We do not have separate staff for the burial grounds. But there are people for the crematoriums. The problem in maintaining the burial grounds has been going on for long,” admits a Palike official. Currently, either the Health Inspector or the Executive Engineer double up as the caretaker for the burial grounds with only one casual labourer or a Palike staffer in-charge for the graveyard.

However, belated efforts are now being made to beautify the crematoriums and burial grounds. Under the BBMP budget 2010-11, provisions and allocations have been made for the beautification of a  few major crematoriums and burial grounds in its jurisdiction.

For example, Rs 50 lakh has been set aside for the beautification and development of the Chamarajpet burial ground; Rs 2.5 crore for the improvement of the burial ground at K R  Puram and Rs 50 lakh for the upgradation of the R T Nagar graveyard. Apart from this, a sum of Rs 1.5 crore has also been reserved for the maintenance of other burial grounds in the City.
 
Burial Ground Tourism

BBMP has also mooted the concept of “burial ground tourism”. This initiative is expected to transform the burial site into a pleasant and silent visiting area for people to visit their loved ones. “Ensuring that these burial grounds are maintained well is basically a Western concept. It will encourage us to keep the sites under observation and protect the dead from anti-social elements,” informs a BBMP official.

It is also learnt that the Palike has sought to identify at least three to four burial sites in each of the eight zones for easing the pressure on the few large available burial grounds. 

Dysfunctional

Even places outside the purview of the BBMP aren’t in great shape either. For instance, some Parsis believe that the tower of silence in Bangalore has become dysfunctional, hence leading to the more convenient options to cremate. One of the members of the small Parsi community in the city believes that the placing of the bodies atop the tower of silence now defeats its own purpose.

“The main point of leaving the bodies atop the tower of silence was to ensure that the carcass will be picked away by vultures in 45 minutes. Now that the vultures themselves are on the verge of extinction, it would be a miracle if the bodies are disposed off in the sun,” said a community member, requesting anonymity.

BURIAL

Muslims, Christians and communities such as Lingayats bury their dead

CREMATION

Sikhs and most Hindus  cremate their dead.

TOWER OF SILENCE


Parsis leave  the dead on specially constructed towers to be fed to the vultures.


Voices

Syed Tanveer Ahmad ,
Editor,
karnatakamuslims.com


“With a growing population, the need for adequate space for burial grounds is hardly overemphasised. Cemeteries in the City are crammed and overcrowded. Besides, people have to go to far-off places to bury their dead. The Quddoos Sahib burial ground in Jayamahal draws people from places as far as Yeshwanthpur. The government should facilitate land acquisition. The community, on its part, should devise a plan.

Fr Irudayam A
Parish Priest,
St Anthony’s Church


“The cemetery on Mysore Road is full; the new bodies which arrive are buried in the same place where their ancestors are buried.  We do not have any land and have asked the  government to provide us with more land.  Moreover, a part of the existing cemetery has been taken over for a road widening project.”

Ratnakar M G
Inspector, Chamarajpet
police station

“Thefts rarely occur inside graveyards. Actually, there have been instances where some people took out the buried bodies for different purposes. But it is not true that jewellery get stolen from the bodies since people bury the dead after taking out all valuables. Sometimes, people might have abandoned such ornaments. Very few thefts of ornaments have taken place in that fashion, say around five cases in the past 10 years.”



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